Born to a family of artists, it isn't surprising that Liu Wei has inherited valuable talents from both sides of her family -- the eye for detail from her oil-and-canvas painter father; and the consciousness of the human form from her dancer mother. But what is surprising is that the then 18-year-old combined these skills and put aside brush and paper in favor of scissors and cloth. Rising from struggling fashion student to head designer of Isunte, China's largest producer of linen textile, Liu says she is at her best when it comes to creative ideas.
Late December, during the China International Fashion Week, Liu Wei stole the show with a positive runway collection in a year marked by global warfare.
Fashion Designer Liu Wei said, "There's a pervading sense of being natural and comfortable. The idea embodied in my loose, fluid designs is the freedom of spirit. It's also about an elevated aestheticism and the blending of diverse ethnic elements."
All of this becomes apparent when you admire the cascading hat propped high by invisible chicken wire, the striped bustier and the ruffled, dusty green linen skirt.
But, that's not all. Liu Wei said, "My show has four themes, which are expressed in four color ranges. The first is green. It is related with the nature and environmental protection. I was inspired by war actually and my work expresses a strong desire for peace. It also borrows military elements."
But the army influences retreat as the glacial models in white take to the stage. From here on, we see breezy, sarong-inspired pieces wrapped around close-fitting mini-skirts, plunging necklines tempered by billowing sleeves, shoulder details, knitted shawls draped over a camel-colored skirt...this is the language Liu Wei speaks.
Liu Wei said, "Fashion is a branch of art. But it's art not merely for the eye. The worth of a design can only be satisfied when it's worn by people. It's important for me not to tip the balance. I must ensure that the overarching aesthetic rules and the more practical, individual considerations are not compromised by each other."
If the flowers encase the leg, then the fox stole is the designer's answer to the bare shoulder. Indeed, the use of detail is carefully measured, whether it be the silver brooch, the flimsy gold leaves, the cabbages at the waist, or the snail-shaped cords.
But Liu Wei's clothes encourage you to dream, such as this Hawaiian grass skirt that transports the wearer to the steamy tropics.
Liu Wei said, "I think designers must travel and experience things by themselves. The further I go, the more I see and the deeper my understanding of what I'm doing. There are fireworks when different cultures clash and it ignites my creative energy. Every country I've been to has impressed me in a different way and widened my horizon."
On these travels, Liu Wei picked up inspirations like these pointed shoes that step right out of the legend of "Thousand and One Nights".
Similarly exotic is this luxurious gauze -- inlaid with cauri shell and black linen, emblazoned with rainbow-colored stripes.
Different elements are blended daringly yet seamlessly, as on the hooded bikini top, chocolate crochet, printed scarf and sleeveless shirt.
There is wool, but definitely NO wooly thinking -- for Liu Wei knows what it takes to create the runway spectacular, let alone a spectacular business.
Liu Wei: "As far as creating a brand is concerned, the biggest obstacle is finance. And there's the role change from a designer to a manager. Some problems are sure to crop up. As a designer, I am focused on self-expression, but being at the helm of a brand means you have to deal with lots of things."
Just to make sure, no one was left in any doubt of her artistic priorities when blue beams hit the runway and "Princess Snow White" shuffled along as the traditional show-closing wedding bride.
(CCTV.com March 26, 2004)