Style / Fashion

So, your clothes are “Made In China”?

Unearthing a new meaning to the faux pass term “Made in China”, to discover the traditional crafts such as silk weaving, hand-dyeing and embroidery that has thrived in the country over thousands of years.

May 28, 2018 | By Shirley Wang

Pia Zanardi discovered a whole new meaning to the term “Made in China” after travelling as a student from her home in Italy to Shanghai, where she saw beautiful traditional crafts such as silk weaving, hand-dyeing and embroidery that had survived thousands of years.

Inspired by the beautiful traditional fashions of China’s craftsmen and women, young Italian designer Pia Zanardi launched Yali, a brand with all its items handmade in China’s rural regions.

In 2015, she launched Yali, a luxury collection of jackets and robes inspired by clothing from China’s ancient dynasties. Today, she designs from her London studio, but still makes regular trips down to the regular regions of China’s rural regions where each piece is stitched together by some of the country’s master craftsmen and women.

Oriental relics are commonly revered for their beauty – the detailed chinoiserie, the fine porcelain, the jade carvings, well protected and showcased in museums. While many of these handmade practices have evolved since history, some traditional crafts still exist in China despite the dwindling number of artisans who practise them.

Techniques and handiwork – such as weaving pure silk velvet and hand-dyeing textiles and embroidery – are still present after thousands of years of history.

In an interview with Pia Zanardi, she raises how “there’s a general assumption that things – clothes in particular – are made poorly [in China], but that’s only a tiny part of the story.”

Pia Zanardi’s upcoming capsule will be a collection of linen jackets. She shares that she is “working with a designer in China to silk-print the inside lining”. The prints will likely be “something that represented Chinese nature – like lotus flowers or Ginkgo biloba”, motifs that are frequently seen in antique Chinese paintings and historically depicted with cultural significance.

With an increasing warmth towards China and consequently the chinese culture, Pia Zanardi is not the only designers channeling and drawing inspirations from the mainland.

Just last month, Shanghai-based Russian designer Artem Shumov made a splash at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia in Moscow with a collection, playful with subtle influences from his four years in China. The Chinese influences were subtle, lying more evident in the styling than the explicit prints. Shumov’s show sported the asymmetrical and oversized shapes in a mix of casual tailored silhouettes, athletic influences with classic styles, adding whimsical details on otherwise traditional pieces.

The designer explains that his life in China has affected his collection beyond its designs. As Shumov gradually became more accustomed with communicating his ideas with the producers in the mainland, he was better able to allocate more of the production itself in China. Now, half of all his pieces now made in the country.

As a design teacher, Shumov currently teaches classes on pattern making, textiles and production processes in Shanghai. In his words, cultural differences offers a lot to be learnt. For a country of such a rich cultural heritage and history of intricate craftsmanship and art, it is more than pity that the country has earned such a poor reputation and stigma against it in the fashion industry.

To unleash the potential and ascribe a new meaning to “Made in China” will certainly mark a new milestone for fashion.

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