For the dreams of China’s New Youth. Before joining the free-of-judgment society that is the NYC Parsons School Of Design MFA graduate program, Rong Xiao back in her hometown of Beijing created a BA collection featuring Guizhou’s Miao Minority-woven fabric (liangbu) entitled “Ritual Futurism”. Rituals of the past, reversal in the making and future rebellion all rolled into one… Time to take a look at this promising designer’s unbridled liberalism of the present.
Pinteresting at its very core with some serious stage presence on the sidelines. This is how one might best describe designer Rong Xiao’s work; where experimentation and expressionism meet education.
The kind people at Parsons School Of Design MFA Program year in year out receive hundreds of applications (read: lookbooks) from eager designer BA beavers all over the world, dreaming of gaining admission to the school’s renowned MFA program in fashion design. The brief lowdown:
Commonly referred to simply as “Parsons”, the school is the 1896 creation by American Impressionist painter William Merritt Chase as a private art and design college located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan in New York City. Notable alumni include creative powerhouses such as Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Isaac Mizrahi, Alexander Wang and Tom Ford in the designing field; as well as the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Joel Schumacher and Steven Meisel in the more visually artistic styles.
Enter: Designer Rong and one Parsons MFA graduate posse. On the prowl for fashionable expansionism.
About Fashion Lecturers And Visionaries
Born to a fashion designer and fashion lecturer in China’s capital, Rong has been coached with that typical creative mentality since childhood. After finishing up her Beijing BA in fashion design, the little birdy decided it was time to open up her soul painted like the wings of butterflies and submit her work to the harshest, most biased yet non-judgmental and kindest to all that is unorthodox fashion jury on the planet: New York City’s Parsons Admission Committee.
A majority of the graduating class steaming towards and eventually partaking in that all or nothing moment of truth — aka the MFA runway presentation on September 17, 2018 — was of Chinese descent. With sincere depth and creativity, these young graduates dove into the depths of their creative souls and pulled out what spoke to their personalities, experiences and visions of the world.
Whether it was an interpretation of currency and American spending culture, the spirit of Feminism and Masculinity, the balance between chaos and serenity, populistic versus individualistic, for this display of raw and rich artistic expression, the unspoken chosen theme was, well, the story of “life”.
Fashion is, after all, just another language for communicating these complexities and dynamic ways of thought.
Watch this short Temper Magazine throwback clip as Rong in February 2018 lifts a first tip of the veil on her September 2018 graduation collection:
The New Made In New York, New York
Surrounded by their visionarily intellectual peers, the students — often burning the midnight oil — inside this atelier get the golden opportunity to learn from one another, stimulated by everybody’s knowledge and skill in their individual craft by choice ranging from pattern-making to textile design and creative director-ing.
These Chinese millennials are in the Temper eye a prime example of China’s New Youth. Eager to cut the chords with her native country’s rules and regulations, yet not disposing of her upbringing and heritage, Rong is ready to take her creativity for an experiential spin.
Supervised, galvanized and advised firstly by a trusted team of professors and secondly by one of the strongest urban creative atmospheres the world has to offer, Rong now experiences the pros of designing without boundaries.
The days of behindhand Beijing-restricted sensitive subject matter (think Gaultier-styled imaginative gender-bending sexuality or Westwood-outspoken views on politics and restrictive gender norms) long gone.
The stimuli and open-mindedness Rong gained from both her familiar (and family) background as well as her new urban and educational surroundings culminated in the creation of her sixth collection: Graduation.
Push vs Pull, Dual vs Duel
Push and pull, that is the reasoning behind Rong’s collection.Through the mixing and matching of pantyhose with men’s fabrics, all the while influencing the new garment’s shape through cutting and stitching and using amongst other things a host of accessorizing bobby pins and hair ribbons, this graduate student is creating a clear and uncensored push and pull between the sexes.
Her strong vision forces the eye to travel as it translates into stage- and cover-worthy garments influenced by cultural and social attitudes spanning from Beijing to NYC, from socialism (with certain characteristics) to undiscriminating creative capitalism.
Rong’s designer duality in gender nevertheless by no means hails from a duel between the sexes, but more so from the exploration of genderless overlap. As proven first by her BA collection featuring Guizhou’s Miao Minority-woven fabric (liangbu), this designer’s aesthetic pinpoints a natural inclination within the creative mind to bridge any given gaps, to face the challenge, to accept it with fashio-socio gusto.
And to bra-hook-up the extreme ends of any cultural, spatial or timeline spectrum.
What here doesn’t appeal to both the abstract and literal conversations on sustainable and social global expansion had by the World’s New Youth? After all, opposites do attract. And we want it all.
Featured Image: Rong Xiao: Glimpses of a Graduate. Elsbeth van Paridon for Temper Magazine, 2018-2019. All rights reserved
Photography by Elsbeth van Paridon for Temper Magazine, 2019. All rights reserved
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After tackling Beijing for some six years where she worked for China International Publishing Group, she spent a moment in time moseying down steep alleyways and writing about their fashionable and underground features in Hong Kong.
Van Paridon most recently managed to claw her way through a Europe-based academic endeavor called "Journalism". 'Tis in such fashion that she has now turned her lust for China Fashion/ Lifestyle and Underground into a full time occupation.
Van Paridon hunts down the latest in Chinese menswear, women’s clothing, designer newbies, established names, changes in the nation’s street scenery, close-ups of particular trends presently at play or of historical socio-cultural value in Chinaplus a selection of budding photographers.
Paired with a deep devotion to China’s urban underground scene, van Paridon holds a particular interest in the topics of androgyny, the exploration of individuality and the power that is the Key Opinion Leader (the local term for “influencers”) in contemporary China.