Although I am enamored with Chinese history and culture, I can totally understand why most people have zero interest. In many ways, the westernized experience and understanding of China is limited to what we learn from our day to day interaction with the Asian community (which is little to none for the most of us) or through the world of business/ politics. Not to mention that the language is one of THE most complicated in the world, which really limits our access to literature and art. Lost in translation are many of the beautiful poems and stories that simultaneously hide behind the political and social tragedies that have tainted the definition of modern day China.
This is an unfortunate circumstance because beyond those things are the colorful splashes of lyric and the hue of nature and humanity. Just by reading a single Chinese poem, you can learn something about the world. Embedded in the language are stories and imagery of the past, present and future. The scripture and detail in the strokes of a single character are meticulously planned. If you ruin just one stroke, the entire character is out of balance and either no longer holds meaning or takes on something brand new all together. I’m serious- even my Chinese dictionary app doesn’t recognize my character if I write one line in the wrong direction. It’s that important.
Balance is a very core concept of Chinese culture in all aspects of life. And from what we can see, the new world of design is no exception. Fashion is thankfully not nearly as stringent.
Laurence Xu does a really wonderful job of exhibiting all of the above through his collections- both Couture and Ready-to-Wear. With the belief that the beauty of a collection is in the garment rather than the designer himself, he chooses to remain out of the spotlight.
Thankfully his designs grab enough of it for the both of them.
Fascinated with traditional Chinese art and royal fashion, many of his collections are sewn using traditional Chinese embroidery technique and include expensive brocades, complex tapestries, and hand-embossed velvet, materials that would once have adorned only the bodies of royalty.
“After 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, there’s a lot to pick and choose from. Traditional Chinese fashion is a thick fashion Bible.”
Designer Laurence Xu, born in Shandong China and educated at the Central Academy of Craft Art, is now based out of Paris and recently partook in his first Paris Fashion Week.
Although a lot of his designs may seem a bit too Chinese-esque for western taste, they manage to present a well updated version of cultural ancestry.
Injecting this sort of aesthetic and cultural pride into his designs is not some new revelation for the Chinese designer. Prior to his fame for runway ready styles, Xu was known for his intelligent costume design in the film industry. For one film in particular “Cinderella Moon,” he traveled the country carving out materials, colors and historical styling from a select few of China’s 55 minorities; infusing them together to create ensembles representative of the diversity across China, far and wide.
“I believe art is without borders. Habits of life and cultural differences make the angles of beauty different, but it all comes to the same point.”
To give some perspective on just how deep Xu’s devotion runs for the authenticity of his product- for “Cinderella Moon,” in order to achieve a slight sheen on one single skirt, he borrowed a technique from the Dong minority of Guizhou, that required him to hammer a mixture of egg whites and pig blood into the material! (Thank goodness there are slightly less disgusting ways of adding shimmer to our lives. But you gotta hand it to him…they wanted authenticity…and they got it!)
His designs can be seen on stars such as Chinese actress Fan Bing Bing who wore his jaw-dropping dragon dress on the red carpet at the 63rd Annual Cannes Film Festival in 2010- later acquired by the Victor and Albert Museum in London.
Inspired by western talent such as Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent and Versace, Xu produces exquisite and bold designs, taking flight with the creativity granted to the members of Chambre Syndicale de Haute Couture. Active since 1993, Xu now runs an independent label with a small design team.