Pre­serv­ing her­itage

Fash­ion brand helps re­vive Miao em­broi­dery

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at sun­yuan­qing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Tucked away i n the moun­tains, Ji­dao vil­lage is a three­hour drive from Guiyang, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal of Guizhou prov­ince. Here, the eth­nic Miao peo­ple main­tain their tra­di­tional life­style. They live in wooden houses, pre­serve meat in early win­ter and hold gath­er­ings at the river­side to re­mem­ber their an­ces­tors ev­ery year.

On the face of it, all this might seem to have no con­nec­tion with high fash­ion, but the com­mu­nity has been a source of in­spi­ra­tion for many de­sign­ers and fash­ion houses, in­clud­ing fash­ion brand Eve.

The Chi­nese brand re­cently made a trip to the vil­lage to make an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign for its 2017 spring/sum­mer col­lec­tion, which fea­tures Miao em­broi­dery.

In­spired by the sea, the col­lec­tion fea­tures shades of blue on its suits, sweaters and coats. A smat­ter­ing of em­broi­dery adorns the clas­sic suit sil­hou­ette.

The women’s col­lec­tion in­cludes sleek qi­pao (tra­di­tional Chi­nese women’s dress) and dresses that high­light na­ture-in­spired em­broi­dery.

While tra­di­tional Miao em­broi­dery is in­tri­cate, Wu Chao­hui, cre­ative di­rec­tor of Eve’s menswear line, says the brand has sim­pli­fied it to cater to cus­tomers’ mod­ern-day needs.

“Tra­di­tional Miao em­broi­dery is usu­ally very rich and ex­ag­ger­ated, while mod­ern menswear is un­der­stated. So we try to use it (the em­broi­dery) in a se­lec­tive, mod­er­ated way,” he says.

“We want to re­vive this her­itage by of­fer­ing it to an ur­ban clien­tele, and we hope this tra­di­tion will live on.”

Eve has been work­ing on a project to pre­serve Miao em­broi­dery over the past 15 years with a ded­i­cated team that doc­u­ments the tra­di­tional crafts­man­ship.

It has es­tab­lished a net­work of crafts­peo­ple and their work, and this has been used ex­ten­sively in their col­lec­tions and shown at ex­hi­bi­tions and run­way shows in Mi­lan, Lon­don and Paris in re­cent years.

Separately, Eve has also formed an al­liance with lo­cal brands, so that all its mem­bers can make use of the data­base.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, it has also helped build a mu­seum in Guizhou to ex­hibit the works of the em­broi­der­ers.

Xia Hua, founder and chair­woman of the Eve Group, says: “Th­ese peo­ple are pre­serv­ing their her­itage with their hands. I want to share their crafts­man­ship with the world, and to let it see the beauty of our coun­try.”

Xia was a teacher at the China Univer­sity of Po­lit­i­cal Science and Law be­fore found­ing the Eve Group in 1994.

Eve is best known for mak­ing men’s suits, and it has dressed Chi­nese mag­nates Jack Ma and Liu Chuanzhi. The com­pany now has five brands — Eve de Uomo, Not­ting Hill, Kevin Kelly, Jaques Pritt and Eve Cina.

The prices of its out­fits range from a few hun­dred to more than 10,000 yuan ($1400).

The group cur­rently has more than 500 stores in China, in­clud­ing a de­signer space in Bei­jing’s Parkview Green mall that show­cases its col­lab­o­ra­tions with in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal de­sign­ers.

The grow­ing in­ter­est in Miao eth­nic cul­ture is also chang­ing the lives of vil­lagers.

In Ji­dao vil­lage, em­broi­der­ers now hold work­shops to teach chil­dren the craft.

There are about 50 em­broi­der­ers in the vil­lage, with the old­est be­ing more than 80 years old.

With re­gard to over­seas ex­po­sure, the em­broi­der­ers were taken by Chi­nese de­signer Xie Feng to Paris Fash­ion Week in 2012 to ex­hibit their skills.

As their crafts­man­ship has gained more ex­po­sure over the years, orders have flooded in.

Now, look­ing to se­cure their fu­ture, the em­broi­der­ers have formed a foun­da­tion, and they con­trib­ute 3 per­cent of their rev­enues to it.

The foun­da­tion now has a fund of around 6,000 yuan, which they in­tend to use to pro­mote their art, says Chen Qin, an em­broi­derer and one of those be­hind the foun­da­tion.

“It (the foun­da­tion) is like a seed. We will use it to spread our her­itage,” she says.

Th­ese peo­ple are pre­serv­ing their her­itage with their hands. I want to share their crafts­man­ship with the world.” Xia Hua, founder, Eve Group

Mod­els for Eve show off the brand’s new col­lec­tions with em­broi­dery pat­terns in­spired from eth­nic Miao works in Ji­dao vil­lage, Guizhou prov­ince.

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