Fashion shopping in China is a curiously hard thing to do. One would imagine its market better and more open than ever with the country’s booming economy during the past few decades and the ensuing influx of international investment, but that’s not the case. I should know, as every summer in China, my mom dragged me to the empty, sprawling shopping malls trying furtively to get me to buy something. But the price and the styles just didn’t match up. The selection was either cheap and frilly with an accessible price tag or somewhat fashionable and interesting marked at some $700. In American terms, it’s like shopping with your only choices being Free People or Vince.
So in comes Icy, an e-commerce platform aimed to promote emerging designers from all over China as well as to give customers sartorially unique options that answer to changing global trends. And the best part is, everything comes relatively affordable and readily available. As soon as the designs hit the runway in Spring Studios on Thursday night, the Icy app was updated with a whole interactive and shoppable section, with nearly every piece immediately available for consumers. This concept of see-now, buy-now was not new, of course, but it was still laudable how well integrated the platform is when it comes to opening up new American markets while staying connected to a loyal Chinese base.
The night’s show was titled Dynasty and was composed of 4 sections, each one inspired by one dynasty in China’s long history, and presented respectively by Hiuman, Leaf Xia, Fengyi Tan, and All Comes from Nothing.
HIUMAN (by Xiaowen Zhou 周晓雯) – Qin Dynasty
With flowing long black hair for men and a smear of bright red on the center of lips for women, the Hiuman show is a romantic evocation of the Qin Dynasty, populated in the public imagination by literature and folk tales with figures known as Youxia, which roughly translates to a “wandering vigilante”. They were people with a strong sense of righteousness who took the law into their own hands in the face of social injustices. People associate them with lives that were often spontaneous and nomadic, and styles that were free flowing. For the designer Xiaowen Zhou, this meant loose silhouettes, natural fabrics, and a palette inspired by the original colors on the terracotta soldiers. Floor-grazing raincoat-like robes came open-chested in whites and mud reds, and jackets were given an oriental touch, its collars cross-cut and loosely closed by a simple rope knot.
LEAF XIA (by Yiqi Xia 夏乙旗) – Tang Dynasty
More psychedelic pop princess than ancient China, Yiqi Xia took her inspiration from the Tang Dynasty more conceptually, in the strict sense of color mash-ups that the fashion of that dynasty is known for. But when you look at the pieces individually sans styling work, the hollowed-out dresses and embroideries laid over tulle layers like giant cartoon stickers are evidently a product of modernity. These are clothes that will be especially popular in Asian underground fashion scenes, and some of the pieces show great sartorial promise: a color-shifting red and green plaid pattern blazer overlaid by organza was especially stunning. A little bit of fun-loving anime spirit, a little bit of irreverent take on historical references, it’s obvious that in Yiqi Xia’s world, anything goes.
FENGYI TAN (by Fengyi Tan 谭凤仪) – Song Dynasty
In this collection, Fengyi explores the connection between the minimalist aesthetic of Song porcelains and modern feminine dressing. The former emphasized subdued hues and extremely subtle curvatures of form, and the latter similarly played with suggestions of movement through delicate pleats on skirts and knits to better highlight the female body in movement. Blue-white lines and diamond-shaped trompe l’oeil prints on dresses and featherweight tops tried to replicate to some degree how the human eye sees movement, and a quite astonishing print of a buddha head distorted by pleats reverberated past in a mysterious smile at the end of the lineup. Very interesting take indeed.
ALL COMES FROM NOTHING (by Yiwei Xu 徐一卫) – Qing Dynasty
Ms. Xu took the theme quite literally for her collection. Words that read “Take me to Shanghai”, a theme song for the wonderfully poised 2016 film The Wasted Times by director Er Cheng, are embroidered on modern sporty pieces like sweatshirts and plain tees. Motifs of the rare Asian bird – the red-crowned crane – show up consistently on dresses and silk blazers, which go very nicely with the ingenious makeup on models: strips of fake eyelashes were glued on top of their brow bones for an extra bird-like effect.