China Inspirations: Slow Fashion On The Down-Low. 中国灵感:我们追逐“慢时尚”.

China's Migrant Workers

That first encounter… I remember it as if it were yesterday. A breezy September day, in that (now) nostalgic setting of Oma’s house… And boy, was it love at first sight! Born in the mid-70s, a mixture of sleek and simple with stand-out features such as a tremendous tab collar (yep, tab). That windbreaker, once upon a disco-time left behind by some uncle, was now mine. Once a fast fashion item, it received an instant upgrade the second my hands got hold of it. After all, this piece had patiently waited 30 years to be rediscovered. When it comes to fashion… Should we take it slow?

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ARTICLE CITED IN THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY AMANDA WU FOR WOMEN OF CHINA (AUGUST 4, 2016).

 

The full-steam-ahead rise of China’s middle-class has now paved the way for more mid-range options to be featured in the average lookbook and closet.

One flavor that stands out in China’s snazzy ensemble scene of the past five years is a maturing knack for a mix ‘n match method of dressing. The fashionable avant-garde world has witnessed the upsurge of a playful and inspired combination of high-end or designer pieces with the more common attire acquired from China’s now omnipresent fast fashion locations — think H&M and Zara.

Fashionista Doe may deem this a rather communistic way of wearing her wardrobe, but fresh (not full-dress, mind you) Fashionista Wang treads on new ground here, with Chinese consumers developing a more sophisticated eye for savoir faire and being unique. The full-steam-ahead rise of China’s middle-class has now paved the way for more mid-range options to be featured in the average lookbook and closet. As far as China’s first-tier cities are concerned, logo-heavy designs are no longer on fleek, whereas smaller niche labels such as Stella McCartney or ACNE Studios, are definitely swag.

The possibility of playing lucky dip in Oma’s leftover wardrobe can rev up your outfits through all-new winning combinations.

The abovementioned shift in ensemble building, covets two tiers of clientele: Those well-heeled shoppers who focus on designer labels and that growing force of middle-class fashion followers. The former are steered towards making more aesthetically unique style choices; the latter are served the larger portions of their apparel buffets by the earlier-mentioned fast fashion strongholds, but do splurge on a handful of key designer items. Now, add to that the possibility of playing lucky dip in Oma’s (well, 外婆 “waipo” or 奶奶 “nainai”) leftover wardrobe and you can rev up your outfits through all-new winning combinations. Low and behold – I crack myself up.

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The word “low” (see, see?) has become quite the Queen Bee in China’s current Vogue lexicon. Many young Chinese, and non-Chinese consumers for that matter, often label homemade goods as “low” (底, “di”) and the word has over time become synonymous with cheap goods of inferior quality. If money is no object, many people will traditionally still go for the “trusted” foreign brand. Ironically, the fashion universe has reached a point where those exact foreign items they get, may very well turn out to be “false” Chinese ones, aka pieces from grandma’s old days revamped to mix ‘n match with 2016. Take the athleisure-appropriate example of Meihua (梅花) sportswear. Women of China’s Amanda Wu puts in her two kuai and tells us the following about this international runway-trending topic:

“Chinese athlete Xu Haifeng [许海峰] in 1984 wore a tailored outfit of domestic brand Meihua Sports at the Los Angeles Olympics; Xu went on to win China’s first-ever Olympic gold medal. Soon afterward, many youngsters asked their parents to buy them a Meihua tracksuit. Nowadays, the Chinese have lost their passion for Meihua sportswear, but the vintage style recently showed up once again during Paris Fashion week. French brand Chloé’s SS16 collection displayed echoes of Meihua sportswear, even bearing its three distinctive stripes along the sleeves and trousers.”

Critics hailed the Vuitton Plaid Laundry Bag as “an iconic, if heavy-handed, example of China luxury localization.”

Chloé’s Meihua-inspired concoction was not a first-in-line or a one-off, either. Back in 2007, Louis Vuitton sent large woven bags down the Fashion Week catwalk for its SS07 show. This little fashion fad surprised many a spectator, and not in the least the Chinese ones. After all, the bag was basically a replica of the supersized staple bags the Chinese migrant workers often tote with them on the ever-frantic Spring Festival travels when billions are rocking that $964 Vuitton Limited Edition Plaid Laundry Bag… For 9 yuan (or $1.35). Critics hailed the bag as “an iconic, if heavy-handed, example of China luxury localization.” At $964? Pretty “loca” instead of “localized”, if you ask me.

I’m all for taking it fashionably slow. This sustainable movement in the realm of mode-lovers embodies the designing and buying of garments on the basis of quality and longevity. As an added bonus, it also encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, as well as lower carbon footprints. Luckily, the movement is becoming a force to be reckoned with in our ever-Spring-Festival-rushed schedules. As far as that “low” word goes, let’s just say… I like to keep my Oma-closet-finds on the down-low (it’s cheesy and I know it). 

 

 

Photos: Women of China.