Top seamster goes beyond red carpet
Lu Kun, Shanghai’s favorite designer, made his name and wealth from his red carpet and party gowns but recently switched over to designing daywear for young working women.
“Fashion, by definition, is something that can be popularized, and I want dresses that bear my name and style to be worn by as many people as possible,” the 34-year-old said after his latest collection debuted at the 2015 Fall Winter Shanghai Fashion Week.
Lu and his two full-time tailors make 30 to 60 handmade dresses a year. He charges upwards of 20,000 yuan ($3,225) for a tailormade dress but his ready-towear collection, Mikumkum, is much cheaper at 800 to 2,000 yuan per garment.
Last week’s show was dominated by dresses and skirts.
Paris Hilton and Victoria Beckham have worn Lu’s signature, form-fitting pieces — inspired by corsets and traditional Chinese qipao — during their visits to the city, but these were absent from the runway this month.
They were replaced by comfortable and practical dresses suitable for the office and urban living. Some included flourishes like a black sash or high-waist ruffles to flatter the wearer’s figure; others saw black velvet combined with satin in shades of red and purple.
“The inspiration is from the eye-shadow palettes you typically find in a woman’s purse. Black may be a safe bet, but brighter colors make it more stylish,” said Lu, who is often compared here to Italian duo Dolce & Gabbana.
He cites Tunisian-born couturier Azzedine Alaia as a personal hero.
“One can choose Chanel or Dior, but it’s always Lu Kun who makes one feel like a Shanghai lady,” said Luo Zilin, a Shanghai-born model and longtime friend of Lu’s. She won the Miss Universe China beauty pageant in 2011.
Always elegant and extravagant, his ensembles often reference 1930’s Shanghai and are rarely ignored by the wealthiest women in town.
The only child of a working-class family, Lu became a tailor because his mother thought it could provide a safe and comfortable living for her son, who underperformed at school.
The “little seamster of Shanghai”, as many of his loyal customers refer to him, became the first designer from the city to have his own fashion show in 2004. Much of his subsequent success owes to word-of-mouth, he said.
In what ranks as a milestone in the local fashion industry, he surprised his hometown with a series of colorful and modern qipao at the show 11 years ago.
It would be nine more years before Dior presented its first haute-couture show in China — another major milestone in the city’s fashion industry.