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Chu Yan Moves Past Traditional Clothing: Global Times Reports

"Even during the Han and Tang dynasties, Middle-Eastern characteristics were absorbed into Chinese clothing... We need to look at the inheritance of Chinese fashion with an open mind. It is the result of multi-cultural and multi-ethnic communication." Designer Chu Yan

As The Guardian’s Paul Mason discusses how China has succeeded to make Victoria’s Secret (VS) a pawn in its “ruthless global game”, a topic dominating headlines this past fortnight, Temper abandons the faded fizzle that was the VS Fashion Show 2017. Instead, we go with the Global Times camera angle as they report exclusively on designer Chu Yan’s latest SS18 “Xunji (Seeking the Traces)” Collection in Beijing. Abandon all doubt, ye who enter this read!

“Xunji” was inspired by the ancient Silk Road that connected Shaanxi Province’s Xi’an, the ancient China capital and Uzbekistan, finally leading to Rome. 

XUNJI Chu Yan
The SS18 “Xunji” Collection. Courtesy of designer Chu Yan, Beijing

Temper Magazine’s Trending segment casts a net upon all that is throwing tantrums within the world of China Fashion across a variety of global sources. This very necessary segment dips its toe into the deep indigo-dyed pool that is the ocean of Middle Kingdom fashionable astonishment.

This time around, we walk down the runway with Global Times reporter Wei Xi as this fashion aficionado sits down with designer Chu Yan for an exclusive interview and discusses the Silk Road, horse motifs and the future!

While the designer still places an emphasis on ancient Chinese styles, the new collection reveals an obvious bohemian streak while incorporating more modern elements. 

Xunji Chu Yan
The SS18 “Xunji” Collection. Courtesy of designer Chu Yan, Beijing

“True confidence is complete tolerance and acceptance of others while not losing oneself,” fashion designer Chu Yan told the Global Times. Recently, she showed off her new SS18 “Xunji (Seeking the Traces)” Collection in Beijing. While the designer still places an emphasis on ancient Chinese styles, the new collection reveals an obvious bohemian streak while incorporating more modern elements.

Featuring a total of 45 suits, dresses and apparel, Xunji was inspired by the ancient Silk Road that connected Shaanxi Province’s Xi’an, the ancient capital of China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to Samarqand, Uzbekistan and finally Rome in Italy. A horse with wings was one of the most commonly used motifs in the collection, since this image often appeared in murals and other unearthed relics on the Silk Road, as well as because horses were the most widely used mode of transportation along the famed trade route in ancient times, according to Chu.

For more than two decades, Chu has been researching traditional Chinese clothing. Although she is not the only designer to do so, Chu’s clothing stands out from the crowd due to her luxurious embroidery and the use of muted colors which remind viewers of Chinese ink wash paintings.

Chu explained that the best way to present Chinese beauty is similar to how salt dissolves into water — you can no longer see the salt, but you can taste it.  

Xunji Collection Chu Yan
Designer Chu Yan and her SS18 “Xunji” Collection. Courtesy of Global Times, Beijing

Felt, Not Seen

When thinking about Chinese elements in fashion, most people tend to think of clothing decorated with dragons or peony flowers. However, in Chu’s opinion, getting Chinese elements right is more about creating a feeling rather than including any particular decoration.

Chu explained that her very first inspirations came from the ink wash paintings of Bada Shanren (Zhu Da), a painter and calligrapher who was active during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. “He knew how to make use of empty space probably more than anyone else,” Chu said, adding that she has spent a lot of time studying the ancient artist’s works as well as modern art theorists’ research about him.

“It’s all about the beauty of emptiness and blank space, which is the beauty of oriental Zen.”

Chu explained that the best way to present Chinese beauty is similar to how salt dissolves into water — you can no longer see the salt, but you can taste it.

“We need to look at the inheritance of Chinese fashion with an open mind. It is the result of multi-cultural and multi-ethnic communication,” Chu Yan

Xunji Chu Yan

“I’ve seen too many Chinese designs that emphasize appearance but lack soul. That was what we decided to change when we first started our brand [in 2011],” Chu said.

Born and raised in Xi’an, Chu says she was subtly influenced by the history and culture of the city at a young age, although she did not realize just how much until many years later.

Spending her childhood visiting museums and art galleries, Chu liked to sketch the figures in some of the Han (202B.C. -220) and Tang dynasty paintings because she thought they were beautiful. This, she says, is one of the main reasons that many of her designs mimic Han and Tang styles.

Chu explained that she also enjoys drawing on elements from the clothing of other dynasties and ethnic minority groups, such as the qipao, about which there is some controversy as to whether it can truly be considered representative Chinese clothing since it was once the traditional dress of the Manchu ethnic group.

“Doesn’t the qipao look the way it does because Manchu clothes were influenced by the Han ethnic group?” Chu noted.

“Even during the Han and Tang dynasties, Middle-Eastern characteristics were absorbed into Chinese clothing… We need to look at the inheritance of Chinese fashion with an open mind. It is the result of multi-cultural and multi-ethnic communication.”

For this same reason, Chu said she does not avoid using more advanced techniques from the West to create her Chinese clothing if these techniques can streamline production and make clothing more affordable for people.

Moving Forward

A well-known name in China, Chu earned more international recognition thanks to the 2014 APEC Summit. During the opening ceremony, heads of state were all dressed in clothing of Chu’s design.

Yet, Chu said there is still a long road ahead for Chinese designers to make a name for themselves overseas, as international fashion is dominated by Europe.

 

Read the full Global Times Meets Chu exclusive right here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The content of this trending topic was originally written by Wei Xi for Global Times, 2017. All rights reserved
Additional editing and introduction by Elsbeth van Paridon for Temper Magazine
Featured Image: SS17 by Designer Chu Yan. Courtesy of KLEAR
Images: All images come courtesy of designer Chu Yan and Global Times
Temper Magazine does not own any of the above English content. All featured English content belongs to Wei Xi for Global Times, 2017. All rights reserved.