For several decades, it is not strange to speak of China in everything that concerns world news. Its rapid economic growth made it position itself among the first world powers, technological development allowed it to be recognized as a pioneer in this industry and its cultural richness make it one of the most relevant tourist destinations in the world. However, there is another area in which China wants to become one of the beacons to follow: fashion.
While that concept still seems foreign to many people, China is making its way into the world of fashion. It is true that the eastern giant has been fundamental in the development of the concept of ” fast fashion ” (a contemporary concept that refers to clothing brands that take up design ideas almost immediately after they appear on the catwalk), but some clothing designers They want to take advantage of all that potential and transform it into the spearhead to be able to generate their own industry with haute couture designs and luxury brands.
Of course, the history of fashion in China is linked with its years of tradition and rich culture. Some clothing items are inexorably associated with it, such as the hanfu, the qipao, and the Changsha.
Created in the 2nd century BC, this is a dress that has defined much of the history of the Asian country. Both women and men used this traditional costume, which resembles a silk robe. The design for both sexes had characteristic differences; the men’s dress had opaque colors, while the women’s had a wide tunic with elongated sleeves, a narrow skirt, and lighter colors. Its influence in the Asian world was such that it was the inspiration for the classic Japanese kimono. As the name implies, this was the traditional dress of the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and its importance was such that it extended beyond this reign. However, this type of clothing was prohibited in the times of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912), when new clothing standards were established.
As in imperial regimes, when the Qing came to power they established various reforms in order to distance themselves from previous dynasties. Among them, new dress standards were established for both men and women. In the case of the latter, the hanfu was replaced by another type of dress: the qipao (also known as cheongsam). It is a dress that began as two pieces and, with the passage of time, became one piece. The first iterations of this dress were loose, with the aim of not revealing the shapes of the woman’s body. Over time, it began to be used more closely to the body and became a unique piece. This clothing is the one that is most often associated with Chinese women in the 20th century, mainly because it was popularized by Nancy Kwan in the film World of Suzie Wong (1960). Today it is still used as a party dress, workwear, and even as a uniform in some private schools in China.
The counterpart of this type of dress was the Changsha, a dress similar to the qipao of the early days but intended to be worn by men. This was the formal dress, generally accompanied by jackets such as the Magua (which was cut at the waist and had short, wide sleeves). As the influence of the West began to enter China, the Magua was replaced by the traditional sacks of Europe, which became the norm as time passed. Although the Communist Revolution was putting aside this type of clothing, in recent years they had a resurgence, mainly used in events such as weddings or formal events of all kinds.
Colors are also very prevalent in Chinese clothing. The most used is red, which symbolizes fortune and good luck (it is usually the one most seen during traditional celebrations such as the Chinese New Year). Others, such as yellow and purple, used to be respectively exclusive to the emperor and his relatives until the end of the Qing dynasty. However, there are two colors that are not usually used regularly due to their connotations: black and white. The first is because it is the traditional color of mourning, while the second is usually associated with mistrust and wickedness.
Traditional Chinese fashion is not only something entirely cultural, but it has become the most recognized image of the inhabitants of this ancient country. Although the “Mao suit” was the standard image for men from the beginning of the revolution to our times, it is increasingly easy to find that western design is being part of the daily life of people in China. This is demonstrated by the new presence of designers from this country, who are integrating these cultural aspects into the making of pieces that are used all over the world. It is not strange to find that in the fashion weeks of New York, Paris and London there are more and more representatives of Chinese fashion such as Huishan Zhang, Xuzhi Chen, or Wanbing Huan. Although many of these exponents of the culture of clothing studied in Western universities and schools, it was the culture of their country of origin that gave them a framework in which they could develop their unique style.
But it is that mixture of two worlds that generates a positive impact on people. Mixing the “mystery” of oriental culture with already established foundations of western fashion ends up creating different pieces to which we are used. And, while they are still making their way into the world of haute couture, it would not be surprising that in the coming years we will be more used to hearing the names of these Chinese exponents of fashion.
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