Show­ing her stuff to the folks at home

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By GAN TIAN gan­tian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Shi­atzy Chen is com­ing back to China.

The orig­i­nal lux­ury label, known for its mod­ern Chi­nese style, showed off a huge col­lec­tion in Bei­jing in June, af­ter eight years of cat­walk lime­light in Paris.

Wang Chen Tsai-hsia, the label’s founder and de­signer, started her busi­ness in Tai­wan in 1978, but un­like most lo­cal la­bels, she de­cided to de­but on the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. She has been pre­par­ing for the fash­ion weeks in Paris since 1984, and founded a stu­dio there in 1990. Her first bou­tique, opened in 2001, was also in Paris, where the brand has earned recog­ni­tion for its dis­tinc­tive de­signs with rich Chi­nois­erie ele­ments.

“It is much more like a re­turn. I’ve al­ways been do­ing shows in the in­ter­na­tional run­ways, but this time, I want Chi­nese con­sumers to take a closer look at the crafts­man­ship and skills used in Shi­atzy Chen,” Wang says af­ter the ex­hi­bi­tion in Bei­jing.

The cap­i­tal’s fash­ion world was im­pressed in­deed with the col­or­ful em­broi­deries on the for­mal gowns at the ex­hi­bi­tion.

Em­broi­dery is one of Wang’s sig­na­ture ele­ments and she uses many types, among which is suxiu or Suzhou em­broi­dery. She had re­ceived a piece as a gift in Hong Kong once and im­me­di­ately started think­ing how she could use it on her de­signs.

The silk threads used in suxiu are ex­tremely fine. When em­broi­dered on mod­ern clothes, it can get dam­aged very eas­ily. Wang and her team spent a lot of time re­search­ing and fi­nally, solved the prob­lem by us­ing a stronger thread as the core, with the finer silk out­side.

There are few who can still work suxiu, and Wang and her de­sign team, used to go fre­quently to Suzhou, the eastern Chi­nese city where the em­broi­dery orig­i­nated, to find vet­eran crafts­men still prac­tic­ing the skill.

“We’ve been col­lab­o­rat­ing with them for more than 10 years, ad we do this be­cause we want to pre­serve tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture which is al­most for­got­ten now. We want to help keep th­ese old skills alive,” Wang says.

She also no­ticed the Chi­nese pref­er­ence for jade, but in­stead of a jade ac­ces­sory line, she has in­tro­duced this pre­cious stone into some ready-to-wear items. For ex­am­ple, her Jade Bracelet Bag, with han­dles crafted from jade, is one of the sig­na­ture items from Shi­atzy Chen.

In­ter­na­tional fash­ion crit­ics have de­scribed this bag as a “jewel on the wrist”.

Wang ad­mits that her orig­i­nal im­pres­sion was to im­press the Western­ers with th­ese rich Chi­nese ele­ments, but she soon saw that even in China, there has been a re­turn to all things tra­di­tional.

It started in Tai­wan dur­ing the late 1990s, and now, there are many young shop­pers on the main­land be­gin­ning to ap­pre­ci­ate it as well.

She firmly be­lieves that th­ese tra­di­tions would res­ur­rect.

“I like to study the life­styles of the young. I ob­serve them at par­ties, on the streets, at the movies and in TV se­ries. I also like to in­vite them to din­ners, to talk to them,” Wang says.

Just as Wang in­tends, Shi­atzy Chen tries to bridge the past and present. With more than 60 bou­tiques in the world, it has been an ad­vo­cate of mod­ern Chi­nese style through its em­broi­dered gowns, qi­pao- in­spired evening dresses, and mod­ern Tang suits for men.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Jade Bracelet Bag, with han­dles crafted from jade, is one of the sig­na­ture items from Shi­atzy Chen.

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