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Catwalk Cool
Beijing witnessed another glittering catwalk fantasy with its Fashion Week at the end of last month.

The annual event, with its debut staged in 1997, fascinated designers and top models from both China and abroad, and the international press with dozens of catwalk shows.

Nautica Day

The Fantasy 2003 autumn/winter collection of Nautica kicked off this year's highly anticipated Fashion Week in the antique Dongyuan Peking Opera Theatre, very close to the Forbidden City.

The first day saw all cameras and eyes on the catwalk show of American-Chinese designer David Chu, founder and chief designer of Nautica, as well as on his 2003 Nautica Design Grant Awards.

For autumn this year, Nautica is taking men on a US tour - a coast-to-coast style jaunt from the Brooklyn shipyards to Chicago's skyscrapers and shores and from the Great Plains to Lake Tahoe.

There are more colours in the mix than during past seasons: blacks and reds in the Gear and Hydro lines of competition performance-oriented active wear; navy, white, grey, stone and red-orange sportswear; beiges, browns and blues in suede jackets, heavy-gauge knits, distressed leather, cargo pants and jackets.

The three finalists for the 2003 Nautica Design Grant Awards were Ren Ping from Dalian Fengyi Fashion Co, Luo Zheng from the Shenzhen Omnialo Co and Qu Dingnan from the Guangzhou Dingnan Fashion Design Centre. The three also showed their collections after the Nautica show.

Chu set up the grant system last year to discover talented young Chinese designers and encourage them to explore the world with their "wings" while never forgetting their roots.

"Fashion is a global culture but fashion designers from different countries and backgrounds have different understandings of it," Chu said. "You should have the wings to fly internationally but always be rooted in your own culture."

The designer's international concept is based on the notion that "every country's mentality is different."

Chu's affinity for Chinese art and history and the pursuit of business in his native country have given him the opportunity to explore his roots.

As inspiration for his global style, Chu travels extensively throughout the year, seeking constant exposure to the world's cultural riches.

"As a designer, inspiration comes from many different places. But travelling gives me the most energy and inspiration. I get a lot of inspiration from just observing different things and people in places that I've travelled to," he said.

Hempel Awards

On the second day, the Poly Theatre became a satellite of the United Nations when 36 young designers from 22 countries and regions displayed their works to compete for the Hempel Awards.

These finalists were chosen from 1,708 applications submitted since last September.

The "White Lily Magnolia Waltz" collection designed by Xie Jin, a senior student of the Fine Arts School of Beijing's Tsinghua University, stood out from all the other works to win the first Hempel Award.

To a melodic waltz, the models walked along the catwalk, as if the white flowers were blossoming quietly in the silvery light of the moon.

"My inspiration comes from the white lily magnolia. The gorgeous white fascinates me - so pure and so beautiful," she said.

Brandon Michael, a designer for the US womenswear firm Hailives, was one of the judges. He said: "Today's young Chinese designers' vision and understanding of fashion are very close to those international designers I know.

"Xie's collection features almost all the fashion trends. They are perfect works of art. But I prefer designs that are both stylish and practical.

"Fashion is very personal. Every designer has his own concept of fashion. When I gave lectures in the Fashion Institute of Technology (in New York), I always told those students who had just started designing that the most important thing for a fashion designer is to be loyal to your own ideas. Cover your eyes and express yourself through the designs."

Wang Qing, chairman of the Chinese Fashion Designers' Association, said he felt very happy to see a Chinese designer win the top prize. He said: "We organized the competition to provide young Chinese designers with an opportunity to be seen by the world. They and their international counterparts can inspire each other."


This year's Fashion Week indicates that menswear is turning a significant corner on the Chinese fashion road.

A dozen Chinese brands showed their latest menswear collection, including Ado, Cabbeen, Ederbo, Mark Fairwhale, Pin, Septwolves, Shanshan and Stava. Many of the menswear shows even outdid those for womenswear.

Mark Cheung, the most famous Chinese fashion designer, won high acclaim for his 2003 autumn/winter collection.

Following the theme of his 2002 collections "Feeling Harvard" and "Cambridge Weekend," this year's catwalk show was entitled "Meet at Yale" and took place at the Beijing Film Studio.

Cheung used high-tech synthetic fabrics in colours ranging from soft pastels to bold and bright colours. Body-hugging jersey knits were also important, and the shapes of the suits made a major statement.

Cheung has opened his doors to the fashion industry and to the public since he designed for Oleg Cassini in 1985. He has established himself as a high-end designer, in demand for ready-to-wear and leisure collections.

Rising Hong Kong designer Danny Yang promoted his collection for Cabbeen. Its catwalk show, also held at the Beijing Film Studio, looked avant-garde and fresh compared to other shows.

But Yang insisted that his designs do not merely have a "look." He said: "The best men's tailoring always has a reason behind it. The cut, the fabric, even details like the placement of a pocket or the size of a zipper tab."

Other flavours

Many other brands also held catwalk extravaganzas, including sensual lingerie shows, sportswear, leisure collections and elegant couture.

Zhang Zhifeng, chief executive and chief designer of NE Tiger, uses traditional shapes, distinguishing them with his signature touches on leather, suede and fur.

He graced this season's catwalk with a collection that mixes all the design elements to create flawless, beautifully cut leather and suede pieces with an unexpected twist.

Structured garments with loose and flowing asymmetrical draped skirts with rows and rows of shirring at the waistband are finished off with hot leather pants, also with shirring at the seams.

Leisure brand Ham Phry showed its simplicity, nature and delicacy. Every T-shirt, pair of trousers or skirt features the concept "Let life feel freedom" of designers Xiong Ke and Cui Yuanmou.

Vincent Lo's design for Wei Wo Xing attracted attention for its avant-garde denim clothes, while Hong Kong brand X-one featured mix-and-match styles.

X-one gave a special party and catwalk to show off its 2003 spring/summer collection. Besides gorgeous models, the show featured stars from the Hong Kong entertainment world such as Natalis Chan and Eric Tsang and the firm's image girl Tiffany Lee.

(China Daily April 7, 2003)

Dalian to Showcase World Fashion Designers
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