Hundreds of fashion aficionados, business people, models, photographers and journalists from all over the world have converged in Beijing to take part in the China Fashion Week, which wraps up on Saturday.
Held over seven days, with 23 catwalk shows, almost 60 designers from 19 countries, two forums and three design contests, the event, which kicked off on March 28 at the Beijing Hotel, goes from strength to strength.
The week's catwalk shows offered an ample opportunity for designers from both home and abroad to show off their autumn and winter collections.
But it's not just the industry's established names that got a chance to show off their work at the Beijing Fashion Week. The event hosted the Hempel Award, the 12th International Fashion Contest for Young Designers, giving new talent a chance to shine as well.
The contest raised the curtain of the week-long fashion festival, with a total of 33 new designers from 19 countries showing collections with the theme "My Vision of China."
This year's Hempel Award went to Hu Li, a 20-year-old student from Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology. Her collection is a good combination of contrasts - tightness and slackness, simple outlines and complicated details.
US brand Izod's runway show was a highlight of the fashion week's opening day. For over 60 years, the name of Izod has been synonymous with high quality casual fashion. Its ready-to-wear outfits balance modern and youthful influences with more classical themes.
As the dark showroom turned into dazzling light and dynamic music, the viewers were amazed to see 36 male models standing on two staircases.
The eight models on the lowest stair wore large colorful knee-length beach shorts, with those on the higher steps wearing white underpants.
The 36 were a wall of men with a high gate through which pretty and sexy female models walked out in Izod's stylish and sensuous underwear and swimsuits and cool Izod sunglasses.
Both women and men's swimwear bottoms feature fabulous fabrics, including a wide range of floral prints, shiny and matt stretch tricot, velvet, satins and metallic.
Izod's casual wear and sportswear followed the eye-catching underwear section.
Jeans remain a firm fashion favorite with an endless variety of styles, from faded and embroidery to glasswork and patched.
Chinese designer Wang Baoyuan graced Tuesday afternoon of Fashion Week with his four collections: classical, stylish, metrolife and imaginative, for Chinese jeans brand Weipeng.
Wang's designs shape a woman's body and highlight her natural curves and also emphasize men's masculine features.
The outfits feature simple sketches made in denim patched with corduroy and the pants made of fustian and jeanette with lycra.
As far as colors are concerned, the collection featured a rich variety from indigo, black, bleached, colored, printed and laminated to washed denim and satin.
Weipeng jeans are also decorated with elaborate buttons and zips. These special-shaped metal, bronze and brass buttons and leather belts add life to the jeans.
"As China's largest jeans manufacture, Weipeng is facing tough challenge from well-known foreign brands such as Levis and Lee," Wang said.
"We have to work more on both fabric and design to win consumers and try to enter the world market soon."
In a daring, laser-lit show on Tuesday evening, Italian brand Tieshidandun showed soft cashmere sweaters in yellow, orange, salmon and blue and strong cable wool sweaters in red and blue paired with soft jeans pants.
This casual wear collection targets Chinese young people with a "feel good" style.
In the same show, French men's wear brand V.E. Delure graced the T-stage with its 2004 autumn/winter collection and precious watches to the touching melody of "Time to Say Goodbye" by Sara Brightman and Andrea Bocelli.
Nobility, chic and personality are characteristics of V.E. Delure. Its suits and watches fully displayed elegant design.
V.E. Delure has long been internationally renowned for its high-end leather products, which are synonymous with good choice, quality material, modern design and unique craftsmanship.
The show was sponsored by Hong Kong-based firm Evergreen (Asia) Trading Company Ltd and men's fashion magazine "Esquire." Experienced in fashion trading, Evergreen, the Chinese agent for French brands such as S.T. Dupont and Charles Jourdan, signed contracts with V.E.Delure in 2000 and Tieshidandun in 2001.
Wednesday was undoubtedly the day for Italian fashion. A total of 29 brands gave a joint show sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission.
Batman and pirates
Thursday featured two established foreign designers.
South Korean designer Han Song's women's wear show had two themes: Batman and Pirates from Space. It was easy to figure out that the inspiration for Batman comes from the popular dark hero in the movie. The designer tried to interpret the character of batman through the trendy black collection.
And the inspiration for Pirates from Space was the fast development of space technology as well as the threat of conflicts in space, designer Han Song told China Daily after the show.
The models' facial make-up looked cool and dazzling with silver color applied on the upper half of the faces with dark black-eyelines. French cosmetics brand Bourjois sponsored the show and provided all of the cosmetic.
Black was the only color used in the Batman collection, while the Pirates from Space featured silver, gold and transparent metal blue-green.
"I personally like monotonous cold colors, and my collections usually look clean and transparent," Han said.
As for the fabric, Han said most of them are natural and handmade. "I used to work with fabric designer Lee Eunil who prefers hand-made fabrics. Today's designers should take the environmental protection into account," he said.
Both of his collections definitely have displayed Korean influences, such as in the sewing and weaving, but the whole style is fashionable and international.
"Fashion designs should be related to today's people and guide trends," he said.
In the evening, Daneil Faret showed off his men's wear for the Zhejiang Zhongxin Wool Textile Co Ltd. The famous French designer recently signed a deal to design for the manufacturer in East China's Zhejiang Province.
The designer said his cooperation with Zhongxin is based on their shared view of fashion trends and local market. "They have good grounding in manufacturing and knowledge of the market in China, while I could provide them with trendy designs from Europe," he said.
Faret also emphasized the importance of fabric: "Different from design for women's wear, fabric is very important for men's wear. We could even say that the choice of fabric dominates the men's collection. Usually, I prefer natural fabric such as cotton and wool. Besides, I use some fabric produced of new technology such as fabric with lycra."
'Rock star,' the final theme of his show featured the ready-to-wear outfits made with lycra.
"My target is male customers aged between 25 and 35. They could be entertainment or sports stars or ordinary employees. So I design suits, casual wear and sportswear as well, and even some tuxedos. In one word I design for men of the new generation," he said.
"I designed at my studio in Paris, but I keep traveling across the world to get inspiration and to get to know the markets in different places. I often visit Beijing and Tokyo to find the trends there and balance my design with both European and Asian influences," he added.
No stranger to China's fashion industry, since he has been involved in China's fashion industry for four years, Faret said: "The fashion industry in China has developed fast over the last four years, but there is still some way to go. China now has no real haute couture."
(China Daily April 3, 2004)