DRESS­ING THE US’ ‘LIT­TLE EN­VOY’

Lau­rence Xu talks about his de­signs for Ara­bella Kush­ner

Global Times - - Life -

The video US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump showed Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping on the first day of his visit to China on Novem­ber 8 of his grand­daugh­ter Ara­bella Kush­ner singing and recit­ing po­ems in Chi­nese sparked wide­spread dis­cus­sion on­line last week. One of the ma­jor top­ics of dis­cus­sion was the pearl-pink cheongsam, or qi­pao, dress the young girl wore, which was de­signed by renowned Chi­nese haute cou­ture de­signer Lau­rence Xu.

One of the few Chi­nese cou­turi­ers to of­ten show at Paris Fash­ion Week and the de­signer be­hind the bright yel­low dragon dress worn by Chi­nese ac­tress Fan Bing­bing at the 2010 Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, Xu is known for his de­signs that are rich with tra­di­tional Chi­nese ele­ments.

East-West de­sign

“First and fore­most, I chose a cheongsam de­sign be­cause the cheongsam is the tra­di­tional cloth­ing for Chi­nese women and it went well with Ara­bella recit­ing Tang Dy­nasty (618-907) po­ems,” Xu told the Bei­jing News.

“Pearl pink matches Ara­bella’s skin… it is also a color loved by many lit­tle girls,” he noted.

The dress was del­i­cately em­broi­dered us­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese crafts­man­ship and dec­o­rated with roses and but­ter­flies. Ac­cord­ing to Xu, the roses sym­bol­ize Ara­bella’s na­tion­al­ity since the rose is the US’ na­tional flower, while the but­ter­flies, which are of­ten seen in tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ings, high­light the girl’s pas­sion and en­ergy.

The Chi­nese de­signer said he was in­spired by the first grand­daugh­ter’s pre­vi­ous video in which she sang in Chi­nese and re­cited some an­cient Chi­nese po­ems.

“I found her a lively, beau­ti­ful and sweet girl with fair skin and a warm smile. The first im­pres­sion that I had of her via her video in­spired me,” Xu said.

The de­signer also talked about the evening dress he de­signed for Ara­bella. Also pearl-pink, the dress is a mix of East­ern and Western styles with a cheongsam top and puff skirt bot­tom, mak­ing it a good fit for Ara­bella’s im­age as a lit­tle en­voy be­tween the two coun­tries, he said.

“By chang­ing the dress’ bot­tom half into a puff skirt, it be­comes a lovely East-West de­sign that fits her age,” Xu told the Bei­jing News.

A chal­leng­ing task

Ap­proached by Ivanka Trump’s team as early as in late Au­gust, Xu said he was rec­om­mended by one of his for­eign friends to the team and it is in late Septem­ber that he was cho­sen as the cloth de­signer for the mother and daugh­ter on their trip to China.

“Un­for­tu­nately we got news a few days ago that Ivanka can­celled her trip to China, but Ara­bella wore my de­sign and is loved by many – I feel hon­ored,” Xu told the Bei­jing News on Fri­day, say­ing that he feels this is mean­ing­ful as he helped weave the friend­ship be­tween the two coun­tries with his de­sign.

Ac­cord­ing to a feed­back from Ivanka Trump’s of­fice, Ara­bella loves the dress and “thinks it is very beau­ti­ful,” Xu said.

As for the re­quire­ments set by the first daugh­ter’s team, Xu told the Bei­jing News that they sim­ply asked for de­signs with Chi­nese ele­ments.

“The team sent me their sizes and their sched­ule in China for ref­er­ence. Be­sides that, there were no other spe­cific re­quire­ments,” Xu re­called.

Ac­cord­ing to the de­signer, the orig­i­nal plan was to de­sign out­fits for the mother and daugh­ter for five oc­ca­sions: ar­riv­ing at the air­port, busi­ness sce­nar­ios, big evening par­ties, small evening par­ties and travel wear.

“Ac­cord­ing to the rules of haute cou­ture, a de­signer has to pro­vide two to three choices for clients. As such I de­signed 13 out­fits for Ivanka and five for Ara­bella since ac­cord­ing to the sched­ule she [In­vanka] was to at­tend two to three events,” he said.

Af­ter draft­ing the de­signs, Xu sent them via mail to the team and they chose five out­fits that they liked. This left Xu and his team just a month and a half to fin­ish the out­fits.

The de­signer told the Bei­jing News that the most chal­leng­ing part of the task was fin­ish­ing the em­broi­dery in such a short time. The so­phis­ti­cated em­broi­dery de­sign on the cho­sen out­fits took Xu and his team nearly a month to com­plete.

Be­sides the em­broi­dery, Xu also used tra­di­tional yun­jin bro­cade fab­ric – a type of silk wo­ven en­tirely by hand – for the out­fits. In Xu’s opin­ion, em­broi­dery and yun­jin fab­ric are rep­re­sen­ta­tive sym­bols of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture.

“For in­stance, the yun­jin fab­ric was given as gifts to the royal fam­i­lies of the Yuan (1279-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dy­nas­ties; they are the essence of Chi­nese silk art,” Xu said.

The de­signer also re­vealed his de­signs for Ivanka Trump, which in­clude a red cheongsam dec­o­rated with pe­onies and tulips for her air­port de­but and an­other cheongsam beau­ti­fully em­broi­dered with a lotus and phoenix pat­tern.

Though many of Xu’s de­signs have been ap­plauded by his clients and in­ter­na­tional fash­ion cir­cles, oth­ers have crit­i­cized his de­signs as be­ing “too much” when it comes to adding Chi­nese ele­ments. Xu said that he un­der­stands why some don’t care for his de­signs since every­one has their own ideas about beauty.

“Beauty in my mind is about mag­nif­i­cence and no­bil­ity, so that’s why I use this style of de­sign,” he noted.

Photos: IC

De­signer Lau­rence Xu Top: Ara­bella Kush­ner

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