Chinoiserie Query

Chinoiserie Query



After the Rodarte show last season, I did my usual round of gauging opinion by asking a well-known Hong Kong fashion journalist what she thought and she said ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think Chinese people will wear that‚Äù motioning to the neck to illustrate the high necks on the dresses resembling cheongsam collars, that were a motif in the show.  I, on the other hand was too dazzled by the Mulleavy sisters‚Äô newly softened approach to notice any Chinoiserie notes of the collection that may or may not be Chinese women‚Äôs tastes. 

Then just under a month later, Louis Vuitton closed the S/S 11 season of shows with a parade of glamped-up Chinese razz-ma-tazz femmes, rife with Mandarin collars, cheongsam-style dresses with thigh high splits, embroidery of bamboo, orchids and pandas ‚Äì everything that conjured up a glamourized vision of an ‚Äòexotic‚Äô Chinese costume, filtered down from 1930s Shanghai straight to the 1970s where a laviscious intent lies beneath the clothes.  From there, a more straightforward link to China, as the looming economic superpower and spending heavyweight was presented for us to speculate upon.  Some reviewers interpreted the collection as an appeal to this market, which to me seems too generalistic a statement, and certainly contradicts with what that journalist said about Rodarte.


To be fair, Rodarte‚Äôs collection in contrast to Louis Vuitton only really nods to Chinese detailing whilst retaining their usual mish mash of influences that makes their collection not one guided by ethnic bias but an ode to emotive 70s suburbia-derived textures and a girlish naivete that always makes Rodarte‚Äôs collection so deliciously good to analyse.  I therefore only use Rodarte as a starting point to my querying post. 


After fashion month, I‚Äôve been bashing my head about the presence of an Asian aesthetic in some of the collections this season, specifically looking to Louis Vuitton, a collection that references some clich√©s that perhaps might not sit all that well with actual Chinese women.  My opinion is but one of over a billion of course and my perspective as a British Born Chinese person is even more warped in that generally speaking, there exists a love hate relationship with ethnic heritage on varying levels when growing up in a country that‚Äôs biologically not your own.  Previously I‚Äôve stated that I have trouble wearing Chinese traditional dress as a rule of thumb, stopped by the gut feeling that I don‚Äôt really wish to wear my ethnicity on my sleeve as well as being in fear of looking like a waitress in a dodgy restaurant or a roleplay actor in a theme park.  That said, traditional dress, when abstracted, reflected, refracted and dissected can have positive results, and in truth, I love both Rodarte and Louis Vuitton's collections, before and after raising this query about the ethnic connotations on a wider level. 

However beyond my wanton sartorial desires, I really wanted to find out whether presenting a Chinese aesthetic would indeed appeal to the Chinese, when there were these insider signs telling me that Chinese women would find it hard to accept or wear certain looks from the collection for numerous reasons be it a detachment to the shackles of old fashioned traditional dress or just a lack of desire to look overtly Chinese. 


Sarah Rutson, fashion buying director at Lane Crawford of Hong Kong who has a great insight into the shifts of buying patterns within mainland China and Hong Kong says ‚ÄúChina customers are not wanting to buy looks that are obviously ‚ÄòChina Doll‚Äô as the reality is it is too close to home and costume -y. The Chinese customer loves colour and embraces lux rich fabrics and with a brand like Louis Vuitton they will embrace certain looks because of colour, print and fabrics, not because it is a reworked cheong sam.  I remember when Tom Ford did his last YSL collection – the world loved it and I looked at the YSL representative for the China region and it was not the happiest face I‚Äôve seen.‚Äù

By this admission, the term 'China Doll', which peppers Rutson‚Äôs comments, is deemed to be a symbolic image that is entrenched as something of a turn-off.  Even if I don't necessarily know what it means I sort of understand the negative association.  Despite the fact that I thought so much of Louis Vuitton was decorative in all the ways that tickled my fancy, there was something that did trigger off the fear of someone tapping me on the shoulder should I be fortunate enough to be wearing one of the ensembles, going ‚ÄúSuzie Wong wants her dress back‚Äù (of course this fictional character was name-dropped into some of the reviews about the collection). 

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Connie Wang, global editor at Refinery 29 who is American Born Chinese hones in on the 'China Doll' better definition than I and furthermore, makes an interesting observation that differentiates the feelings of an overseas placed Chinese person to that of someone living in China: ‚ÄúI think that there are some women – especially in Asia – who would find it fun that designers are appealing to Asian sensibilities and are making high-fashion qi paos for them. But for lots of us who want to avoid all those weird connotations that traditional Asian dress signifies in Western cultures (docility, demureness, opium-den-sluttiness, etc), it's the least appealing thing.‚Äù  I‚Äôm not in favour of making sweeping generalisations but sadly Wang's point about the stereotype of the docile and demure Chinese woman is most certainly one that still exists. 

The differentiation between Chinese people of different backgrounds is also affirmed by, Deuscher Tang, features editor of Numero China who brings up a detachment to traditional Chinese dress by way of the Cultural Revolution in China.   ‚ÄúYou must know about the Cultural Revolution in 1960s till 1970s which abandoned all the traditions, which means we totally have no feeling (attachment to) for ‚Äútradition‚Äù, so I think local women will feel these Chinese traditional dresses on the catwalk are so beyond their life and exotic.‚Äù  Miuccia Prada‚Äôs recent quote given at the recent Prada show in Beijing: ‚ÄúI was told that people do not like being reminded of the past‚Äù perhaps therefore referred more to Mao-uniforms than the cheongsams and qi paos. 

Still, Tang also goes onto say that the likes of Shanghai Tang have been exporting this aesthetic for years and that it’s a label that does mainly cater to Westerners rather than a local clientale, an opinion that makes me think of my own perverse and secret belief that cheong sams and qi paos just look a whole lot more interesting on a non-Chinese person.

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If we can't take anything away other than indifference or mild dislike to 'China Doll' looks, then perhaps we can accept a compliment. Peggy Tan, a young designer based in New York, points out that collections such as Louis Vuitton‚Äôs could potentially be a show piece cultural nod that indirectly garners sales, if not of the pieces from the catwalk collection themselves.  ‚ÄúI am not so sure if Chinese will actually buy and wear those show pieces but it certainly is good PR.  I think Chinese people are happy to know that a designer/brand appreciates Chinese culture or that they are ‚ÄúChinese friendly.‚Äù  And that makes them more willing to buy products form the brand even if not this one.‚Äù

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Tan‚Äôs own label Mandarin & General demonstrates the incorporation of Chinese-inspired details that is both subtle and effective and illustrates Chinese-inspired pieces that I personally would wear on a daily basis. ‚ÄúI noticed most of the Chinese inspired designs (including many of Chinese own local brands) focus on the obvious decorative motifs.  It is understandable since the designers don‚Äôt always have time to really investigate the cultural background and historical trends of Chinese garments  (there were many just Qipao along), and those surface treatments make good show pieces and visual statements. The draw back is the results usually feel more like novelty items. This is also what motivated me to start Mandarin & General. I want to fill that void and create truly modern and wearable clothes that play with the structural and functional details rather than the cliche.‚Äù

It‚Äôs not gonna take a paltry blog post to dissect the full ins and outs of Chinese market reaction to the presence of chinoiserie in high fashion.  It‚Äôs also important to remember that, Marc Jacobs‚Äô own references for this Louis Vuitton collection are not directly Chinese-influenced either even if the visual results suggest otherwise.  The pop-art and highly stylized nature of the collection actually made me think that the costume-y elements were heightened enough for me to instantly want to wear a lot of the pieces without too many internal qualms.  It also has to be said that everyone I spoke to heaped high praised upon Louis Vuitton's stylised collection, which when you look beneath the cliched surface is in my opinion, a solid stroke of positive kitsch. 


The bottom line of all of this comes down to singular personal tastes that can‚Äôt be swept into neatly boxed-in opinions, but relating this all back to China‚Äôs imminent pole position to become the place to make/break profit margins for designers and luxury fashion houses, it‚Äôs interesting to momentarily confront this complex relationship with traditional dress that gives a generation of part-time Chinese observers such as myself much to think about when faced with a pivotal and conveniently themed collection such this one by Vuitton.  On a more general end note, Rutson's sums up her thoughts on China as a consumer force that is ever present on the minds of fashion brands and designer as thus… "Understanding that the worlds most important market is China is one thing – I'm sure designers are not na√Øve enough to think Mainland Chinese want ideas based on their "national" idealized dress from the past.  This is not the way to break the market or show an understanding of their needs!"  Goes without saying of course…

(All backstage photography of Rodarte and Louis Vuitton by Morgan O'Donovan for Dazed Digital)


Leave a comment
  1. tommy

    2011-01-31 at 11:50 PM

    And to throw in another dimension to the debate, how Chinese is the qipao/cheongsam? Some would argue that its conception and evolution is rather recent, compared to other aspects of ancient Chinese culture that have had a longer lineage.
    I often wish that there was a representative Chinese garment that I can wear for special occasions and welcome new takes on Chinese elements in fashion, though I am still waiting for the encounter with the something that feels “right”. Perhaps this “right” thing is something completely fabricated: a hybrid of pre-Qing robe styles & Manchurian (the qipao’s predecessor) elements with a dash of austere utilitarianism!

  2. Fashion Agony

    2011-02-01 at 12:16 AM

    Those –∫—É—á–µ–≥–∫—É–≤ wedges are absolutely gorgeous!

  3. Raspberry Jam

    2011-02-01 at 12:23 AM

    A beautiful collection!
    Love their wedges!

  4. Sister Wolf

    2011-02-01 at 12:55 AM

    When I posted picture of a sequined cheongsam by Romance Was Born, one commenter snarled something derisive about Suzy Wong.
    I don’t think there’s a big place for political correctness in fashion. When a designer shows a big furry hats with furry flippers (Rick Owens), it could easily offend the Eskimos.
    The other interesting point you bring up is everyone’s preoccupation with China as a market force and, with the Tiger Mother, a cultural force.
    Fashion has co-opted every culture and every costume in history. Isn’t that why people study it?

  5. Kaye Beeh

    2011-02-01 at 12:57 AM

    Wow, what a collection. I definitely see what you are talking about.

  6. Lily

    2011-02-01 at 12:58 AM

    hmmm… interesting post. I’d probably only ever wear a qi pao for a costume party/ theme day/ Chinese New Year party. I have a load of cheap qi paos my mum got for me from China and they sit in the corner, mostly unworn. Other than the fact that they are itchy, stiff, and plain uncomfortable, I do find that it does nothing to improve people’s prejudices of me the few times I’ve worn it. I felt slightly awkward the one day I wore it to school (spirit week), and I thought I was the only one who had hesitations when it comes to wearing the garment. It’s strange that the qi pao has come to represent Chinese fashion. I’ve found that the qi pao’s predecessors were far more interesting, the ones that every hackneyed Qing and pre-Qing historical drama features (cough- Huan Zhu Ge Ge), even if they are even more than the itchy, stiff and rather uncomfortable qi pao’s.
    The perspective of an ABC,

  7. Brigadeiro

    2011-02-01 at 1:24 AM

    I am of Chinese decent (grew up in Brazil and now live in Australia), and I love “Chinoiserie” Fashion, and have used quite a few cheongsams in the last few years. I am also a huge fan of kimonos (although I am not Japanese). I was often told by other girls of Chinese decent (although Australian Chinese) that they although they admired me for using the cheongsams, they would never use them themselves, saying it’s ok for a foreigner to use Chinese clothes, but not Chinese people themselves, which dumbfounded me. Admittedly, my favourite cheongsams are those not in its traditional fabric (especially not the polyester shiny printed fabrics), and ‘In the Mood for Love’ reinforced my love for Chinoiserie fashion, which showcased cheongsam after cheongsam in the most beautiful fabrics and cuts…
    PS. Apologies for my rambled reply.

  8. Lindsey

    2011-02-01 at 1:30 AM

    A while back I wrote a blog post on all the Asian-style influences on the spring runways ( ) But I never even thought about how people from Asia might actually interpret those collections. It’s a very interesting point that you bring up and would be really cool to do some more research on the effects of those collections.
    It’s kind of similar to YSL’s 1970 collection where all the clothes resembled styles from the forties, and all the editors in Paris hated the collection because the clothes reminded them of the German occupation. It’s very intriguing because you really don’t realize how even clothes can remind people so much of the past.

  9. Kajade

    2011-02-01 at 1:51 AM

    I always wonder why those of us in HongKong don’t choose to dress up in qi paos in festival or in CNY( except wedding day).
    Like Japan, every girl and women would dress up in Kimono…..i guess it’s because the choice is very small here, and ppl here don’t value the old traditional custom as much as other countries. Actually i would dress up in qi paos if they come in more modern color and pattern:)
    a reader from HK

  10. Tarina Heart

    2011-02-01 at 2:04 AM

    I totally agree that these Chinese styled clothes would look better on someone who isn’t Chinese. I’m of Chinese decent but born in New Zealand, I can’t see myself wearing the cliched Louis Vuitton clothes. The reason is that it’s too over the top Chinese and I would prefer if they toned it down and it would have been better if they referenced certain aspects than taking the traditional design too literally.

  11. Kit

    2011-02-01 at 2:11 AM

    I have a cheap qipao knee length dress (in lilac with dodgy chrysanthemum motifs embroidered all over) sitting in my wardrobe, unworn for three years. I don’t know why I bought it maybe because I had to own a piece of ‘heritage’ that represent my motherland, my culture in hope of one day I would wear it on special occasions i.e Chinese New Year. It is the the whole traditional detailing that really puts me off – the frog fastenings, the motif embroideries, the symbols you name it.
    I admire Shanghai Tang for their aesthetic, having been their twice-yearly customer for their homeware since they opened in 2001(?), since then I never bought their qipaos it’s a question whether I’d feel mature/old enough to wear one of their pieces….at 28 and as a BBC I am ready. This week I will invest a qipao dress/top at Shanghai Tang and wear it with pride and joy for Chinese New Year…..expect an outfit post by end of this week.
    P.s I’m such a hypocrite.

  12. safra

    2011-02-01 at 2:24 AM

    i personally was never into this “traditional” sort of dress. But i from the perspective of the journalist who made the comment, i certainly get it. as black woman – and rather fashion forward one – i’ve never been into “ethnic” references pertaining to fashion.

  13. lin

    2011-02-01 at 2:30 AM

    Can’t speak for Chinese people living in China, which is presumably the hot consumer market all the big brands are breathless targetting these days, but I’m a Chinese from Singapore, and qipaos on a young person are only seen at wedding dinners (some brides op for this as formal evening wear) and waitresses. Other than that, maybe teachers teaching Mandarin from my mother’s generation.
    I think clothing with Chinese influences are seen as special occasionswear or costumes, because for the most part, they don’t seem to suit everyday life.
    That said, I have seen beautiful, subtle takes on the qipao that would actually work for the workplace, and my sister has a beautifully tailored one – I guess they’re basically sheath dresses with a mandarin collar. While I believe qipaos are a rather modern invention and a product of western influence, they still represent the most recent incarnation of traditional clothing. If there were more choices made in fabrics and cuts modified for modern, urban life, I would like one.
    I guess I would be interested to see anyone delve deeper into other historical garments and see what could be made of it – would they have a relevant place in modern life, or are they meant to be relegated to history, like whalebone corsets.

  14. gorete sousa

    2011-02-01 at 2:55 AM

    PERFECT post and looks!!!

  15. pupa jammie

    2011-02-01 at 3:34 AM

    i think the fact that qi paos are not practically wearable to hong kong simply coz of its busy culture. plus qi paos are actually very hard to carry due to its cutting as it tends to reveal the exact body shape of the wearer. its hard for anyone without certain feminine curves to take. the waiter recognition is the other main reason too. i wud say the fabric plays the major part to avoid that look!
    and i love the LV collection! especially the 2 colourful ones with the high collar. it looks amazingly modern and grand! love how the way chinese tradition is interpreted in the collection. i wud like to say that i wud wear them to any party as a chinese!

  16. frances

    2011-02-01 at 4:38 AM

    Due to the bespoke nature of the cut and structure of a good qipao/cheongsam, the dress is likely to remain what it has been since the 1920s — the highly specialized art and business of Chinese tailors. Chinese consumers are not looking for a modern, high fashion spin on the qipao. Chinese women have few specific traditional occasions that require said traditional dress, in its traditional form. The qipao’d look has evolved into this “China Doll” image because of the highly sexualized nature of the qipao in the evolution of the Chinese woman. The qipao is associated with the image of the Chinese Modern Girl, the obsession of many 1920s and 1930s intellectuals in Shanghai. Today, it is perhaps the most overt symbol of the sexualization and commercialization of the image of the Chinese Modern Women in an age where women’s liberation came into the vocabulary of the Chinese. It is a hybrid symbol of Manchu and Chinese, traditional and modern, modest and sexy.
    Chinoiserie has been around in European art, design and fashion for so long that today it’s hard to say if Marc Jacobs’ feat at Louis Vuitton is purely commercial or not. in fact, the qipao was largely out of sight between 1949 and the 1990s because of its associations with tradition, feudalism and the Republic. The cheongsam survived in HK and Taiwan, but during the tumultuous period after the establishment of the communist regime the qipao was no longer the modern girl’s dress of choice. HK and TW have long been important markets in the fashion industry, much like Japan has, but mainland China is the new market — and whatever exaggerated take fashion designers have on chinoiserie may just be an indication of the stretch of China’s “soft power”.

  17. Lila

    2011-02-01 at 7:16 AM

    I am a discreet though addicted reader to your blog and this time I dare to make a comment :
    I love how you developed this cultural issue, and managed to point out all the angles, BRAVO!
    Thanks for the always personal AND original point of view about fashion, it is always a pleasure to read you!

  18. susie_bubble

    2011-02-01 at 8:59 AM

    Tommy: You’re so right‚Ķ. it is a recent garment that somehow got entrenched in cultural imagery (probably via film photos) and it’s funny how even Qing dynasty robes are not recognisable on a wider conscious level. I suppose it’s a similar situation to say flapper dresses being in higher consumer demand and wear than say Medieval-inspired robes‚Ķ.
    Sister Wolf: No cultural/ethnic stone has been left unturned in fashion for sure and actually it’s gotten to the point where we can’t get nit picky over it‚Ķ. the Louis Vuitton collection is an interesting one in so much that it comes at a time when everyone is banging on about China. At the recent IHT Luxury Conference, everyone got on stage and had to make a point about China‚Ķ
    Lily: Let’s bandy together with Tommy to come up with a pre-Qing or Qing robe that isn’t tight and itchy‚Ķ. personally (and this doesn’t help the cause really‚Ķ) I kind of like the underwear that you OCCASIONALLY see in these dramas‚Ķ
    Bridgadeiro: Good observation about the Japanese and their attachment to the kimonos and I have seen beautiful qi paos made up in non-traditional fabrics Рmy cousin has one in wool and tweed…. she also made to order dresses in Liberty print too….
    Lindsey: Or just politically imbued collections in general‚Ķ. I’m thinking of Miguel Adrover’s ‘Meeteast’ collection shown in February 2011 which preceded 9/11 and I think was a factor in Adrover’s downfall‚Ķ.
    This Louis Vuitton collection ostensibly doesn’t have the same potent cultural or political reminders especially when we consider that mainland China doesn’t really have those connections with qi paos due to the Cultural Revolution but it is interesting to see different Chinese women and their views on it‚Ķ.
    Kajade: To be fair, Hong Kong being an ex-British colony, there is this long-existing attitude that ‘West is Best’ and this is something that has in a way leaked into China.
    Tarina Heart: I actually think the collection is very stylised and that there are purposeful cliches that are then balanced out with pieces such as the slit front zebra things or just ‘slits’ in general (which are of course not in line with the buttoned up traditional qi pao dresses) but yes, I partially agree with you about seeing Chinese traditional dress on non-Chinese people‚Ķ.
    Kit: I’d love to see you in a Shanghai Tang piece – I’m inching towards a Mandarin & General piece myself‚Ķ.
    Interesting that you bring up maturity and age as a factor as my mother for example has only ever worn a qi pao once and that was for her engagement party….
    Safra: I’ve touched on ethnic references in fashion before and my rule of thumb is, if it’s abstracted and referenced in a way that is creating something new rather than straight off copying then that’s still quite interesting‚Ķ.
    Lin: Yup like I said‚Ķ. I’d consider one in less traditional fabrics for sure and you too can join Lily, Tommy and myself in investigating alternatives!
    Frances: Thanks for delving into the context and history of the qi pao in a more in-depth way. My post was making reference to the many motifs and facets of Chinese traditional dress in general but you’re right, the qipao/cheongsam does seem to be the primary focus and it is due to the subsequent sexualisation of the garment seen in 1920s/30s Shanghai. It has also subsequently cheapened to devolve from the original highly tailored dress with ‘porny’ super short examples that are widely available.
    Desucher Tang did point out the qipao’s lack of significance for the modern people of China due to the Cultural Revolution but I’m inclined to believe that people recognise its symbolism and that this Louis Vuitton collection is a compliment made to China and its consumer force‚Ķ

  19. edoardo

    2011-02-01 at 11:41 AM

    The Rodarte show was myf aovurite one, so cool and the shoes…Oh Kirkwood di so a great work!! ABout Vuitton I liked it even if Jacobs went to much out of the “vuitton style…”.

  20. Crystal

    2011-02-01 at 11:51 AM

    I like to think that I’d wear blatant chinoiserie and not feel ambivalent, but that’s just completely untrue. As an ABC (currently residing in the UK), I feel like even when I’m not wearing my ethnicity on my sleeve (though it’s arguable that I’m ever not doing so), there’s always this fear of the “happy ending” joke. It’s stupid, all too easy to make, and so unoriginal as to be boring, but it happens and it’s insulting. Not that I purposely dress to keep such situations from occuring, but I might, on some level, just to avoid the general feeling of unease. Geez, studying your own motivations can be really difficult, haha!
    None of my Chinese cousins currently living in China worry about the cheap ethnic joke and they find it fascinating that I do. They also don’t wear anything remotely traditional and when we talk I sense that it’s from being caught up with a love of modernity. Traditional Chinese clothing still seems old-fashioned to them and hasn’t really looped around to fashionable again just yet.

  21. Tommy

    2011-02-01 at 12:02 PM

    We should definitely get together one of these days and dream up a new Chinese dress.
    That said, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a “qipao” made in navy velvet or navy linen, but cut more conversatively in pre-1930s style when they seem to be much less body-hugging than today’s versions. More young intellectuals than courtesans will be a fair summary. But still trying to find the right tailor. Or need to get my act together and make my own.

  22. Ashleigh

    2011-02-01 at 12:34 PM

    loved the Mandarin & General mint green dress!

  23. michelle

    2011-02-01 at 12:47 PM

    love lv looks
    daily new post at

  24. BlovetBeauty

    2011-02-01 at 3:15 PM

    i wish they made chong sams like that for chinese new year. its so stylish

  25. Joyce Wong

    2011-02-01 at 7:56 PM

    last term, I did an essay about footbinding and a shirt design project inspired by dress shirts and dajin(§ßË•üË°´) in LCF. I found that westerners tend to focus on Han’s footbinding, qipao chong sam and symbolic patterns while neglecting manchu women’s platform shoes and long robes. Lack of resources(photographs and translated books) of previous Chinese garment rather than qipao chong sam might be one of the reasons for designers keep focusing on the obvious motifs and silhouettes

  26. Ena

    2011-02-01 at 10:00 PM

    thank you for a very interesting, insightful, and well written piece; i think you bring up some important issues and questions that others may shy away from.
    thank you for the inspiration, keep up the good work!

  27. Krystle

    2011-02-02 at 4:01 AM

    I agree with Ena. What a deeply analytical perspective that is just so refreshing in the fashion world. I really appreciate that you took the time to dissect these collections and the impact they have socially and culturally rather than simply posting pictures like most bloggers these days seem to think is sufficient.
    You inspire me to write better.

  28. Erica

    2011-02-02 at 4:31 AM

    I love all of your blogs, but it’s ones like these that really just remind me of what a smart, serious, and yet still fun writer you are. Fashion blogging with a brain! Always very refreshing in a wash of blogs solely concerned “omg new shoes!” to get actual industry and business insight.
    and 春节快乐!

  29. Zinhle Mncube

    2011-02-02 at 9:07 AM

    Super interesting read. Love it!

  30. Jay @hautepop

    2011-02-04 at 5:16 PM

    Amazing post – I followed it up a bit on my Tumblr (link below), but there’s lots more you’ve said I didn’t manage to touch on. Your comments on kitsch are particularly important in understanding this imagery, I think – the issue isn’t simply one of Louis Vuitton trying to sell Chineseness to the Chinese but actually selling a very postmodern take on nation, culture and identity.
    Lots to think about…

  31. ali

    2011-02-19 at 8:53 PM

    Im the asshole who sent you a passionate and deranged comment about this about 2 years ago.
    I think your comment that non-asian women look more interesting in the qipao inspired look is actually quite compelling…
    I dont know…as someone who grew up in Tateyama (little town at the foot of MT Fuji) and then moved on to Shanghai…always wanted to be either Japanese or Chinese…was absolutely in LOVE with both Japanese and Chinese (traditional) (and, with the case of Japan, non-traditional, sailor moon anime) aesthetics….
    its just painful for me to read this post (and the one you posted so long ago.)
    I understand the desire to avoid the demeaning stereotype of docility and demureness… but it seems to me that many asian women (maybe not you) would avoid traditional looks out of shame and the desire to appear as westernized as possible.
    I say this as someone who owns 4 corsets and 5 qipaos. and I say this as someone who’s heart belongs to Shanghai…. vivienne tam and YSL’s famous old asian inspired collection…

  32. Agence de mannequins Lyon

    2011-05-26 at 1:01 PM

    She looks absolutely gorgeous. She looks great! Absolutely lovely editorial. His insight into the intricacies of fashion is absolutely magnificent! I love this color.. I love your collection.. Wow amazing site. Her dress seems to be very gougers. She looks very beautiful.. All dresses are very fashionable and stylish. Thanks for posting.

  33. Charlotte @ Lose and Find

    2013-03-10 at 1:43 PM

    This post really resonates with some of the questions I feel get pushed up in our modern conception of ethnicity and political correctness. The qipao cut seems to play with wavering lines drawn between stereotype and tradition, and it’s really interesting to see how it functions as a cultural signifier. My Taiwanese mother owns a hand-tailored qipao, as do most of the women in her generation, and the event itself – the measuring, tailoring, the delivery – seemed to be something both shared with my mother’s friends and my mother as a wonderful, societal event. But, I’m the half-Northern Irish and half-Taiwanese daughter(a mouthful for anyone), and it’s a complicated ethnic background that in the hypersensitive PC culture of Britain, makes people, including myself, uneasy. Therefore the idea of wearing the emerald qipao that I ran about in at six, now that I’m twenty-one, is fraught with something obtuse about claiming a culture I only understand as an outsider (having grown up mostly in NI), and emancipating myself from exactly that western sexualised image of “the docile and demure Chinese woman” of a generation which I’m removed from. I don’t have any answers. Fascinating fashion post Susie.

  34. Evelyn

    2013-05-16 at 6:21 AM

    Thank you for sharing this post. It seems the consensus from the comments is that Chinese women would wear Chinese inspired clothing if it had the modern appeal of contemporary cuts and fabrics. But I still don’t see Chinese women wearing Shanghai Tang. Their branding has gone terribly wrong under the Richemont management.
    I recently read an article in Glass magazine on the rise of emerging Chinese fashion designers and a couple quotes from the article really resonated; I believe they are some of the defining sentiments of Chinese fashion as a 21st century industry.
    “I like it when you can FEEL China. You feel it, you don’t see it! And that to me is the highest level.” – Han Feng
    “I will use CHINESE details because I want to use them. Not because I’m CHINESE.”- Xander Zhou
    As a Chinese woman born and raised in Hong Kong, I know the Cheongsam has a special place in society. Getting one made can be a luxurious and satisfying experience. Nothing is more flattering than a cheongsam that fits you in all the right ways. I love to wear them for traditional events such as weddings and banquets, but outside of these occasions, as many of the commentators have mentioned above (especially with made-to-measure cheongsams), they are uncomfortable garments.
    I recently wore one to a French wedding in Paris. My grandmother would have done the same because she feels a cheongsam is the only appropriate dress to wear to any wedding. Tradition is not something to be shied away from. It should be embraced and yet transcended. There is nothing wrong with being perceived as ‘demure’ or ‘elegant’. Just as there is nothing wrong with being perceived as ‘bold’ or ‘edgy’.

  35. iDreammart

    2013-12-30 at 5:20 AM

    Lovely Photography and well designed great outfits.

  36. Evelyn

    2015-03-30 at 2:58 PM

    And to throw in another dimension to the debate, how Chinese is the qipao/cheongsam? Some would argue that its conception and evolution is rather recent, compared to other aspects of ancient Chinese culture that have had a longer lineage.
    I often wish that there was a representative Chinese garment that I can wear for special occasions and welcome new takes on Chinese elements in fashion, though I am still waiting for the encounter with the something that feels “right”. Perhaps this “right” thing is something completely fabricated: a hybrid of pre-Qing robe styles & Manchurian (the qipao’s predecessor) elements with a dash of austere utilitarianism!

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