Muhammad Asad Ulla
The last day of Shop Qatar 2020, organised by Qatar National Tourism Council, was about luxurious, pretty clothes — of ripping off the ‘Made in China’ label and replacing it with ‘Created in China’. It was a night of dazzling couture, sumptuous luxury pret and funky oriental wears … just the right designer on the lineup to represent the myriad fashion aesthetics that are represented by the QNTC. Lan Yu had the final say on how the term ‘high fashion’ can confidently be attached to the Made in China label.
China might be known for its unparalleled hold in the manufacturing industry on a global scale, but a recent influx of young, independent fashion auteurs are making their presence known as up-and-coming designers to watch out for within the world of fashion. The contemporary design scene in China is at an exciting stage. In the space of just a season or two, the momentum has really picked up. Yes, China’s fashion appetite is reflected in the sector’s massive growth, but contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just in the luxury space. Yes, Gucci is huge in China and so is Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga. If you’ve been to London you’ll know what I mean when I say this — because Regent Street is always swarming up with people from China holding a Gucci bag or two wearing a Moncler down jacket.
However, it won’t be erroneous to say that there’s a surge of interest in the local talents, as well, and the general sense is that millennials and Gen Z-ers are willing to embrace (and experiment with) their Chinese roots and mesh it with new age fashion and design. Investors are eager to support such new brands too.
Lan Yu’s closing show was loaded with talent, covering a broad scope that felt somewhat akin to London or New York proving her mettle as an avant-garde experimentalist, commercial designer, streetwear enthusiast, minimalist, and ultra-feminine dressmaker.
With many highs and low lows, the day witnessed fashion drama and a couple of pieces that should never have been made — or should’ve never been made that complicated to understand.
We live in an Instagram world where our eyes shaft from one thing to another without need for a unifying narrative. If you’re going to make the idea that you’re talking to women as individuals a mainstay of your label, why only present them with a single vision? And if you can do so with the same spirited and playful attitude of Lan Yu, then so much the better.
Lan Yu gave a wild touch to the sophisticated look, making it difficult to slot the collection into any one particular style, even in terms of colour theme. Although collection featured lots of whites of whites, but a dash of the unexpected was added to every conventional sartorial style: pleated skirts paired with applique capes that were more jacket like to hide the off-shoulder tops, sheer skirts underneath oversized organza, tulip dresses with a mix of prints, and surprising detailing like creeping floral trimmings alongside a coat of arms. Perhaps the pithiest summation of this collection’s statement came in the form of a bronze metallic flowy silhouette contrasted with deep red lining declaring ‘hyperrealness in the evening time’. With her collection, Yu is advocating a revolution of what’s allowed on the red carpet — subtlety and layering, lots of layering infact.
The showcase started with a model in Kimono Kaftan in bursting green with oriental embroidery — the embroidery caterwauled how effortless Lan is embracing her cultural heritage and combining it with modern silhouettes, modern in terms of structure. Her collection featured structured silhouettes, nothing too fussy, before she sent down models with layering that kept on increasing and so did the techniques she employed.
The show had bows and 3D embroideries and jacquard flowers, too, like the one tied with a dramatic flourish at the small of the back of a silk blouse. There were also plenty of bells and whistles, with beading, bejewelling, and searingly intense colours galore.
Constructed in chiffon, organza, tissue, silk and velvet, the collection oscillated between couture-couture and demi-couture, which basically means pieces produced in relatively limited quantities and sold by the likes of Net-a-Porter. The former might mean a bronze plissé gown, all giving-face, giving-shoulders vampiness, or the painted and jewelled white evening dress with oriental powder pink embroideries in silk. The embroideries in silk had gold foil in detailing which added on to the popping colour were pleasing to the eyes and for fashion business people for sure.
There’s a fine line between being edgy and stepping into kitsch and that’s where her designs did fell short. In the pieces showcased during the climax, there was a lot happening: layering, flowing silhouettes, crop tops, embroideries, pearls, lace, ruffles and volume — all in one. Some pieces that were styled together to form one look could’ve made a better statement if treated as separates. She could have dispensed with some wedding wear constructed in lace at the end, but there were only a few of those outfits.
However, as cohesiveness, the showcase was a joy to watch. What a collection, what cut, and verve and finishing. Nothing was too revealing even with deep necklines and back — Lan Yu covered the spaces so well with lace here and tassels there. A win afterall!
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