“If you eat a tasty egg, do you want to see the hen?”
Interesting…..but not an unexpected statement from the woman who believes in minimizing her self exposure to the press.
Ma Ke, the co-founder of Exception de Mixmind and founder of WuYong (which means Useless) is a humble woman whose recent publicity due to the brands’ shoulder brush with celebrity status has heightened excitement around her growth as a designer on a national and international stage.
Just as Michelle Obama did for Taiwanese designer Jason Wu, Chinese first lady, Peng Liyuan did for clothing label Exception de Mixmind; founded back in 1996. Last year, Peng Liyuan-Xi JinPing’s wife-was photographed wearing a labeled black, double breasted belted coat and handbag. Want China Times reported that the label has discretely hand tailored nearly 100 outfits for the first lady, over the past couple of months.
Attention awarded to Xi JinPing, by peers and admirers alike, can of course be attributed to her good fashion sense. The obvious transformation from ostentation to subtle exploitation of wealth for government officials (due to the new law) is probably reason enough for her wardrobe choice. You know the whole self preservation thing…
But what has really captured our wandering eye is the pursuit to improve national pride. By supporting and promoting home grown Chinese designers, Peng LiYuan uses her celebrity status for Chinese advocacy. This is largely in contrast to what we typically see worn by women of her stature in China.
After graduating from Su Zhou Institute of Silk Technology, Ma set up a ready- to-wear fashion label Exception de Mixmind, often dubbed ‘China’s first designer brand’ alongside her ex-husband Mao Ji Hong. They were two of the first students from Mainland China to choose fashion design as a focus for their studies at University.
Despite its huge domestic success, opening more than 100 stores across the Mainland and a reported value of 1 billion RMB, Ma formally parted ways with Exception seven years ago in favor of her younger haute couture line, Wu Yong, which has presented just two collections since its conception in 2006. One of the reasons behind the brand’s relatively limited output is its focus on slower, artisanal production techniques such as hand-sewing, dyeing, and weaving on antique looms- intended to promote traditional folk craft.
Although Bigger, Better Stronger, in the age of heavy consumerism, can be ideal for money makers, and for the Generation Ys’ need for instant gratification, it may not be the most sustainable. Things that don’t achieve instant results are often labeled useless. But as a society we are too focused on short-term gain. The ‘usefulness’ of things in the present can often differentiate from their long term value. This is the ideology behind her brand WuYong.Wu Yong uses traditional textile techniques such as the Chinese loom. Along with many up and coming designer, Ma is trying to redefine, the’ Made in China’ label name Wu Yong reflects Ma’s attitude toward fast fashion.
Ma Ke’s general perception of the market is based on trying to understand ‘bigger, better (faster) and stronger- which is essentially the core value of the current Chinese mentality.
But I think that we are experiencing a major shift in the tectonic plates of the Chinese consumer market. There has been a change in the type of product they are interested in buying. Unique, domestic, understated brands have become the more desirable versus the label heavy, ostentatious brands. With the newly instated party rule on limiting the amount of money Chinese elite may spend, this type of buying behavior is becoming more commonplace. There has also been a rise in Chinese nationalism and support for domestic brands and designers.
By bringing domestic fashion brands to the forefront during her first official trip abroad, First Lady Peng Li Yuan has given these domestic labels international credibility, changing public opinion practically overnight.
She is single-handedly raising national pride and confidence China’s future. The Global Times noted, “Chinese people’s confidence in their culture, including politics, is more or less related with their confidence in domestic brands. Many of them (China’s social elites) are the first followers of foreign brands. Social elites should contribute to promoting China’s brand-building efforts.”
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