Making fashion accessible for all women
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.”
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.