china couture fashion Shanghai womenswear

France to French Concession: Be Celine b. 从法国到老法租界:怎么穿法式衣服?

Headlines in the 21st Century repeatedly point out how fast fashion comes at a steep cost; both an ecological and ethical one. Luxury fashion, then, comes with the literal and considerable price tag. When it comes to fashion, I ask: When is the price right?

Headlines in the 21st Century repeatedly point out how fast fashion comes at a steep cost; both an ecological and ethical one. Luxury fashion, then, comes with the literal and considerable price tag. When it comes to fashion, I ask: When is the price right?

“I aspire to fill that Chinese fashion-loving woman’s closet with piece-by-piece unique outfits. At the right price.” Celine Bolton. 

In my state of reverie, I had a quick powwow with French Shanghai-based féline Celine Bolton of the eponymous label “Be Celine b”. Born and raised in a small Norman village — images of gîtes buried in green pastures and that wonderfully androgynous avant-la-lettre Jeanne d’Arc spring to mind — Bolton spent half her life flouncing around France and the other half based in Betty Shabazz’s hometown of Michigan. (Now that’s one woman who in life, and more than once for that matter, was presented with a staggering bill…)

Bolton in 2012 took her fresh and feminine take on fashion, as Christian Dior intended, to the Middle Kingdom, where she to this day sets out to give the steadfast Chanel China obsession a stylish twirl and fill les amoureux de la mode‘s closet with piece-by-piece unique outfits. At the right price. Vas-y!


Temper: Who are you, where you from, what’s the idea here and who’s it all for? And why on Earth do you choose to do this job?

Bolton: “I had a fascination with fashion from an very young age and spent a lot of my time drawing, painting and the likes. Being ‘artsy’. Although I’d actually pursued a career in business, I still held that dream to start up my own business. Coming to China made this a real option for me;  at this point in time it is still the land of opportunities. I found all the resources required and talent needed to start up my own clothing line. Mine really is the story of a dream come true.” 

Temper: My “Triple S” question about your take on design: Sustainable fabrics/ materials? Specific silhouette or style?  Seasonal preferences? 

Bolton: “My designs mostly revolve around the nightlife and special events. I do not particularly favor any type of fabric as long as I can make my clothes look fitted, elegant and feminine. Seasons are not important for me, I just want my customers to be able to wear my clothes all year round. It’s all about feeling empowered and confident!” 

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It’s all about sketching, turning it into eveningwear and making it happen. Sounds like fun, right?


Temper: The all-important Muse, then… How do those creative juices get flowing? 

Bolton: “I get inspired by the great creators such as Christian Dior, but also by the simple little things in day-to-day life. For example, when I’m strolling through my mom’s flower garden, I picture all the vibrant colors on actual fabric. Whilst walking on the beach in Deauville with the wind blowing through my hair, I envision light fabrics that can reflect that sense of freedom. And there you go, my next collection is born: Silk and silk chiffon fabrics with abstract flower prints… Voilà! After that, it’s all about sketching, turning it into eveningwear and really making it happen. Sounds like fun, right?” [Sounds like I might need to get my hands on that “fun” Muse to scare off writer’s block.] 

Temper: How does “China” shine through in your work? 

Bolton: “Chinese women inspire me, of course, although their styles can at times be… very disputable. Still, they remain elegant and feminine; they are basically strong women in slim delicate body shapes. The women here can be very ‘mysterious’ and it’s always very hard to pinpoint what they really think of you. Designing clothes for them is very challenging, but very exciting at the same time. So I just keep working and thinking about how to gradually and methodically change the trends.” 

Temper: How about the (budding) Chinese fashionista? 

Bolton: “I am meeting more and more Chinese designers through their clothes, as well as the individuals themselves. They are talented, ‘relentless’ and their styles differ from one to the next. Their casual pieces are usually a tad more eccentric than mine. I think differently, I try not to go overboard and stay simple. And at times throw in a few edgier pieces. It’s all on my calculator.” [Hehe, nice one, Bolton.]

Temper: How do you see yourself in evolve in the China Fashion scene? Any big plans —  world domination in 2016?

Bolton: “The China scene is wide open for me right now. In terms of evening wear, you see fewer designers and those designers who ARE on the runways, are usually not the most affordable. I want to change that current trend. I want to reach out to all professional and educated women and fill their closets with unique outfits that come at the right price. 

For now, I need to concentrate on the Asian market, with China in pole position, and get the “Be Celine b” brand on everyone’s lips. I organize private events, am scheduling fashion shows and must keep creating as to show to my customers what I am truly capable of. 2016 is all about staying strong, investing my time, energy and creativity into a solid business venture… [laughs]…World domination is for 2017.”  [If you’re gonna do it, you gotta aim to be the crème de la crème, n’est-ce pas?]


What may we conclude? It’s all about style, shape and personal taste. If the glove fits, and you love it, you go and get it. Because that’s your glove-given right. Just please try and mind those ecological and ethical price tags, will ya?  Because we’re all worth it — cue “Heal The World”.


Photos: Be Celine b.