China Chic, A New Trend

Shanghai's trendsetters, enamored by Western fashions in recent years, are now embracing Chinese-style clothes, say local retailers, who are cashing in on the new vogue.

The traditional clothes, or Zhongzhuang, with their high collars, knot buttons and eye-catching colors, seem to bring back memories of how an earlier generation of Chinese women dressed on their wedding day, some say.

Although it is a reemergence of an old style, the new trend is a bit more fanciful than the styles of the 1970s.

"During last year's televised Lunar New Year variety shows, many celebrities and performers wore Chinese-style coats or vests on stage. The traditional but trendy style soon won over Chinese women," said Zheng Ying, a manager of China Element, which began to manufacture and market traditional Chinese-style clothes last year. "The fad spread like a wildfire."

Tian Haiqing, a marketing executive with Mega Department Store, said, "Chinese-style clothes have staged a comeback. The traditional cotton-padded coat, vest and qipao - with some modifications to suit modern-day tastes - are selling well."

The qipao is the form-fitting dress with a high collar and side slits that traditionally has been ankle length. But now there is also a miniskirt version.

"Our store and garment makers are more than satisfied with sales from the past year," Tian said.

Garment makers in the city, however, had declined to disclose any sales figures.

Since Monday, Mega Department Store has been staging a weeklong exhibition of Chinese-style dresses in the lobby of the Grand Gateway Plaza in the city's Xujiahui shopping area, hoping it will spark a new surge in sales.

The clothes feature signature Chinese touches that include the knot button, the high Mandarin collar, dragon or floral embroidery and enchanting colors.

Then there's the Chinese-influenced casual look - jackets and pants with an East-meets-West style.

"The revival of traditional Chinese clothes is a good example of the eternal recycling of styles," said Ye Hong, general manager of Yehong New World Clothing Co, a local garment maker.

In 1998, the city's once ailing traditional Chinese garment industry was rejuvenated by rising demand in both the domestic and overseas markets.

The popularity of traditional Chinese-style clothes appears to have soared during the Spring Festival holidays, retailers say.

Joy Tang, a 20-something clerk at a consulting company, said, "The Chinese-style vest and skirt - red peony pattern with white trim - makes you feel festive and beaming. Although the cost is a bit high, they are a special attire for Spring Festival."

( 01/26/2001)

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