Mak­ing fash­ion ac­ces­si­ble for all women

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By JESSIE XU in Shang­hai


She may be bet­ter known for be­ing a pro­lific lin­gerie de­signer, but Lily Zhang has in re­cent years been uti­liz­ing her par­tic­u­lar set of skills in an­other sim­i­lar field in­stead — swimwear for China’s Miss Uni­verse con­tes­tants.

Hav­ing joined the Miss Uni­verse China team in 2014, Zhang has reg­u­larly wowed in­dus­try ex­perts and fash­ion­istas by us­ing un­con­ven­tional ma­te­ri­als such as can­died fruit, stuffed panda toys and Chi­nese lanterns to cre­ate new­fan­gled swimwear.

“For me, there is no rule or bound­ary when it comes to fash­ion de­sign. I just go with my in­stincts,” said Zhang.

“My per­sonal fa­vorite from the col­lec­tion is the blue and red piece in­spired by head­dress in the Pek­ing Opera. The ori­en­tal beauty it con­veys is re­ally be­yond words,” she added.

But es­o­teric sense of style aside, what Zhang truly hopes to con­vey through her cre­ations is that Chi­nese women should be more ad­ven­tur­ous and confi when it comes to “ex­pos­ing them­selves”. She said that the bod­ies of many Chi­nese women ap­pear to be much older than that of their peers from other coun­tries, partly be­cause they are still largely un­aware of how to choose the right piece of un­der­wear.

She claimed that the fun and colorful as­pect to the swimwear she has de­signed for Miss Uni­verse con­tes­tants has in­her­ently helped en­cour­age Chi­nese women to ex­plore wear­ing lin­gerie which they once thought to be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for their bod­ies.

Zhang also be­lieves that Chi­nese women have been able to bet­ter re­late to the con­tes­tants clad in her swimwear as they are usu­ally not as “per­fectly pro­por­tioned as pro­fes­sional mod­els” and are hence less in­tim­i­dat­ing.

Hav­ing worked in the lin­gerie in­dus­try for more than 10 years, Zhang re­al­ized that many lux­ury brands of­ten tai­lor their ap­parel for peo­ple with fig­ures like su­per­mod­els. This in turn spurred her to set up her own fash­ion line, Mavinia, which is com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing stylish clothes for “av­er­age-sized peo­ple”.

She added that while there are many big Chi­nese un­der­wear brands that are suc­cess­ful on the sales front, most do not have in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence and recog­ni­tion.

“It is my dream to cre­ate an in­ter­na­tional Chi­nese brand of in­flu­ence that would help women avoid the mis­takes I have made in the past. I hope with my prod­ucts,

It’s re­ally about how you can ex­pose your­self, as com­pared to other fash­ion de­sign the­o­ries that re­volve around how you can hide your body.”

Lily Zhang,

lin­gerie and swimwear de­signer, founder of fash­ion brand Mavinia

they can look their best and at the same time Chi­nese cul­ture will be known around the world,” she said.

Among Zhang’s big­gest fans is Yue-Sai Kan, the na­tional di­rec­tor of the beauty pageant in China. Last Au­gust, ahead of the Miss Uni­verse China fi­nals, Kan shared with her 1.4 mil­lion Sina Weibo (China’s ver­sion of Twit­ter) fol­low­ers that Zhang “is a re­ally tal­ented de­signer”.

Dubbed as China’s Oprah Win­frey as well as Es­tee Lauder, the Amer­i­can busi­ness­woman who owns her epony­mous cos­met­ics em­pire, Kan has gone to great lengths to pop­u­lar­ize the 64-yearold beauty pageant in China since she took over in 2011. And Zhang looks to be the mas­ter­stroke in draw­ing the at­ten­tion of the au­di­ence and the me­dia.

It takes Zhang about four months to dress up the par­tic­i­pants of the beauty pageant. From sketches to pro­duc­tion, Zhang and her team of tai­lors are con­stantly mak­ing ad­just­ments to achieve the per­fect weight and wear­a­bil­ity of each out­fit, en­sur­ing that while the con­tes­tants are able to flaunt their fig­ures, there is lit­tle risk of a wardrobe mal­func­tion dur­ing the fi­nals which is aired live on­line.

“It’s re­ally about how you can ex­pose your­self, as com­pared to other fash­ion de­sign the­o­ries that re­volve around how you can hide your body,” said Zhang.


One of Lily Zhang’s fa­vorite cre­ations is in­spired by head­dress in the Pek­ing Opera which aims to con­vey the ori­en­tal beauty.

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