Dynamic duo

Updated: 2012-04-01 08:16

By Gan Tian (China Daily)

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Dynamic duo

The garments of Beijing-based menswear Eve Cina are inspired by China's typical water-mountain landscape paintings, with elements including standing collars, qipao, silk and embroidery. Provided to China Daily

Dynamic duo

Chinese fashion houses that cater to opposite sexes team up for a show in London, reports Gan Tian

Chinese fashion labels are no longer amateur players in the world's important runways. A show named Water-Mountain brought Beijing-based menswear Eve Cina and Guangdong-based women's label Exception de Mixmind to the London catwalk.

The show was held at the Chinese embassy in London on the first day of London Fashion Week in February, one of the four most famous fashion weeks in the world.

Like the name suggests, the garments are inspired by China's typical water-mountain landscape paintings, or ink-and-wash paintings, from the Song Dynasty (960-1279). These paintings have only simple outlines but illustrate the beauty of nature.

Designers from two labels use black, gray and white to create shirts, dresses, and outfits. Typical Chinese elements, including standing collars, qipao, silk and embroidery, are mixed with Western cuts that are simple and elegant.

In China, young fashionistas, who paid much attention to the Gucci, Fendi and Louis Vuitton, are not so familiar with these two local brands.

In fact, these two are the most important labels in China's fashion industry. Eve Group, which owns Eve Cina, was founded in 1994, and it owns nearly 400 boutique stores at the moment. The designer Ma Ke established Exception in 1996, and now it has more than 90 shops all over the country.

How did they make their way to the big stage of London Fashion Week? They met a good opportunity.

This year, the Week started the new project named International Fashion Showcase.

Organized by the British Council and the British Fashion Council, the project focused on the emerging talents all over the world, inviting more than 80 designers in 19 embassies and cultural institutes across London.

The Chinese embassy in London was also invited. Staff in the embassy had happened to read a Chinese fashion magazine, which had full coverage on the Eve Cina's exhibition in the Capital Museum in 2011.

And the time was perfect. This year marks the 40th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between China and the UK, and there will be a series of cultural events between the two countries. The fashion show was one of the first, according to Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to Britain.

However, it was the label's typical Chinese style and its attributes of some traditional Chinese handcrafts that brought them to London.

For example, every button on the men's shirt is made from precious black jade. Eve Cina invited jade sculptor Lin Jianhui to carve some Chinese paintings on those small and thin buttons. This is one of the handicrafts that are dying in the country.

A very traditional Chinese way of making a shoe is using multiple layers of cloth in the sole, instead of a hard, thick pad. The shoes presented in the show all have more than 30 cloth layers sewn together.

"I guess the British people want to see a label that could represent China and its culture," says Xia Hua, chairwoman of Eve Group. "If the embassy picks up a label that is similar to any other one in London, it would be meaningless."

The show was a success, attracting Harold Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council, and Martin Davidson, chief executive of the British Council.

Tillman gave two thumbs up to the show.

"London is a creative powerhouse and China has a burgeoning creative industry. If we combine these two, I believe great things can happen. This is the goal of the China Britain Fashion Alliance, which I launched last August," he says.

"Exception and Eve are examples of well established Chinese brands that have real potential to build international followings. Let's hope London will be a platform for them to build on in the future", says John Walford, director of the shows.

Hearing this, Xia Hua is already considering her second step. Now she plans to open one boutique store in London this year, and persuade two famous collective fashion stores to present Eve Cina's garments.

"We are also contacting fashion buyers from Harrods and Sel-fridges," Xia says.

Contact the writer at gantian@chinadaily.com.cn.