As an anthropologist, I have been concerned about the global complexity of the fashion industry and how people are interconnected internationally through fashion. In 2001, when I first visited China-Italy joint ventures in China, I was shocked by the complex relationship between fashion materiality and non-materiality. As a symbol, of course, as with other forms of cultural practice, it exists because of people’s needs. But because it has an impact on both the material and non-physical levels, designers and fashion brands must not only focus on design, but also think more about actual production. In 2005, in an article I wrote for the academic journal “Fashion Theory”, I focused on the process of analysis, in order to tell the Sino-Italian joint venture that it is impossible for Italy to separate clothing production from the concept of fashion manufacturing. Come. And a series of important changes during this period (2002-2010) also marked that China is transforming from a notorious outsourcing manufacturing world factory into an important market for global fashion goods.
From 2002, I first visited the luxury mall with few customers in Shanghai Kerry Center. In 2008, I visited the Salvatore Ferragamo exhibition at the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, which has only passed six years. By the time I completed my research project in 2010, China would already be able to export local fashion creative designs to the outside world. Today, Rizzoli’s new book “Guo Pei: Couture Beyond” is dedicated to the haute couture designer from China. Does this mean that China has caught up with the West in so-called fashion games?
I wouldn’t say that. The whole issue is far more complicated than it appears. Fashion is a form of national or ethnic symbols and aesthetic expression, but at the same time, fashion often crosses national boundaries and continuously and freely collides with and merges with the cultures of different countries and nations in an aesthetic way. In China, local fashion styles are inherently complex and diverse, and fashion’s contribution to advancing cultural modernization also builds a way for people to express themselves. The latest fashion visual culture is a new face of globalization under the influence of the original colonialism, breaking through the traditional European-centric borders. Therefore, this is not only a simple combination of the Western view of China and China’s view of itself, but also the existence of the views of all parties that constitute Chinese fashion, including Western views.
In 2011, the scholar Wessie Ling and I participated in a thematic seminar on design history and design organized by the East Asian Department of the University of Brighton to discuss how to “build a global/transnational design history framework”. There we came up with the idea of co-editing a book on different aspects of modern Chinese fashion. We are very interested in depicting the unique identity of Chinese fashion in the context of global fashion, and the performance of Chinese fashion design in the context of globalization. . In 2013, we had the opportunity to do a symposium at the International Convention of Asian Studies. With this event, we are fortunate to have collected the articles presented in today’s books.
The planning of “Fashion in Multiple Chinas: Chinese Styles in the Transglobal Landscape” is a complex and lengthy process, and one of the reasons is the breadth of the project’s theme and geographic latitude. In fact, the earliest title we proposed to the publisher I.B. Tauris was “Making Fashion in Multiple Chinas”, but it was changed because the publisher felt that the title was too long. But the word “make” still has important implications. It refers to both manufacturing and producing. And more importantly, the word “make” also takes into account the complexity of fashion, like it is both a physical product and a conceptual idea. This book starts from multiple perspectives. The development of Chinese fashion since the reform and opening up of the past century is a typical theoretical case to study the laws and experiences of fashion development today.
In fact, China has always been an important object for studying the conflict and experience of fashion under the new world order. It is the country that manufactures most of the world’s fashion goods, and its huge domestic market also has huge commercial potential for brands. At the same time, it is also trying to incorporate creative expression into its identity characteristics in the late stage of market reform, and fashion design is often the first category to win worldwide recognition in this regard. The case of China gives us hope that we can step out of the old ways of studying global fashion. Fashion globalization is a heterogeneous process.
In an unstable hierarchy, different forms of national subjectivity have formed. In other words, we don’t want to simply contradict the concepts of tradition and modernity, clothing and fashion, east and west, and use simple methods to try to change the European-centric fashion concept. Eurocentrism or French centrism of fashion has been revised and criticized by anthropologists, clothing historians, and fashion theorists. On the one hand, clothing is defined as a series of modifications and additions to the body that have broadened the concept of fashion in the anthropological sense; on the other hand, according to historical data and research from iconic geographic regions, In the fifteenth century, fashion already existed outside Europe. The overall immobility of clothing not only does not exist-just like all human cultural phenomena-clothing itself is constantly changing, and the concept about it is also considered as the construction of ideology.
Many recent studies have analyzed the impact of globalization on people’s clothing, tastes and habits, trying to find out the patterns, constant factors and characteristics of fashion communication, in order to trace a global fashion path map. Fashion cannot simply be reduced to an imperialist form of culture, nor is it just the expansion of commercial brands from the West to the rest of the world. Some authors believe that the term “fashion expansion” from Europe to the rest of the world is incorrect because it is a race-centric expression in itself, which will further strengthen the wrong narrow concept of “fashion was born in Europe”. Therefore, the first question that needs to be questioned is not about the origin of European and Western fashion, but the logic of thinking that should link fashion to Western modernity, and at the same time, to link the clothing of other countries with tradition.
The globalization of fashion follows an uneven pattern, which we can describe as a “leopard” pattern. Its creation may not be in line with modern logic, but may be caused by historical differences and inequality between Europe and the rest of the world. Fashion will develop with economic, political, and social development in history. This is why in our era marked by continuous global interaction, it is necessary to understand the direction of thought and trade development, and to change stereotypes.
We believe that Chinese fashion is a cross-cultural and cross-regional concept, and as we say in the book, it only works through the interaction between China and the West. The West has redefined Chinese fashion, and this has become part of the formation of Chinese fashion. In this book, we apply three interrelated concepts: common belief, time, and space. The common belief involves the contradictory ideas of the West and China on Chinese fashion; time is a debate about the origin of contemporary Chinese fashion and its relationship with the past; space is about the geographical and cultural diversity created by China. And as shown in individual chapters, whenever a topic is discussed, the focus can also be linked to other topics. This naturally highlights the complexity and interconnectedness of the issue.
We really enjoy the process of creating this book, and we are proud to include many outstanding authors from the disciplines of history, economics, anthropology, fashion curation, sociology, media studies, cultural history and other disciplines. The book is divided into three parts. The first part consists of five chapters, devoted to China’s fashion industry. From Antonia Finnane and Peidong Sun’s exposition on the homogeneity and unity of the Mao Zedong era, as well as the case on the discussion of really good fabrics, Xin Gu’s chapter mentioned that fashion is A creative economy is an effective way for the Chinese government to transform from “made in China” to “created in China.” Jianhau Zhao described the structure of the fashion industry, fast-selling fashion, ready-made garments, and high fashion. Juanjuan Wu, Yue Hu, Lei Xu, and Marilyn R. DeLong particularly considered the distribution of fashion in China, and put forward the importance of localization to recognize Chinese fashion.
The second part consists of five chapters, which mainly discuss the multiplicity of other aspects of China, such as customs, aesthetics, and the more important concept of “Chineseness.” This is an inevitable result of the various historical, political, economic, and social and cultural trajectories that China has experienced. This part of the paper is more about Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, and Singapore, which have the largest population in China, except for mainland China. Wessie’s chapter analyzes the cross-regional and cross-cultural exchanges between mainland China and Hong Kong, and Hong Kong’s role as a pilot site for China to establish a global fashion empire.
The relationship between China and the West is the subject of part three (two chapters) of this book. Hazel Clark, who studies the Chinese diaspora in the New York fashion industry, emphasizes that “Chinese designers who have lived abroad for some time and have become famous” have created a new global expression. She accurately discussed the definition of Chinese designers in China and the West, and the vague cosmopolitan attitude that Chinese designers need to participate in the global fashion system. Identity is also the subject of a chapter I wrote about the designer Romeo Gigli, and it continues my earlier research on Sino-Italian relations. The Italians are different from the French: the French are more likely to implement the luxury group strategy in China, while the Italians mainly take individual risks in China. Gigli and his wife and collaborator Lara Aragno told me about the extraordinary story he experienced as an Italian fashion designer in China, from the past British Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland. As I have emphasized in this chapter, Romeo Gigli can be seen as an example of the rebirth of Western brands in China, and China has given him a new opportunity.
But his experience also shows that in the process of globalization of the fashion industry, fashion itself is undergoing subtle changes. When he first arrived in Hong Kong, the city was still affected by its colonial history. Gigli, as an Italian designer, represents the western interpretation of fashion. Those who look forward to the Western consumerist lifestyle, Chinese from a completely different world feel both strange and admired by him. The second stage of Gigli’s experience in China is his return to legend in a Chinese fashion environment that is fully integrated into the brand culture. In the third phase, Gigli gave his legendary history to China. This is an important tool to ensure the creativity of Chinese fashion, as well as his role as a designer. With his own tradition, Gigli was able to develop his talents. To some extent, the conclusion of this book is to point to “openness”, that is, China is not completely closed to the west, and the two-way communication and interaction model between the west and China goes beyond the purely orientalism and foreignness that are often applied to the study of non-western fashion Or neo-colonialism or central and peripheral models.
The cover of this book is also very interesting. Thanks to the Italian photographer Daniele Mattioli in China for generously letting us choose a photo from his wonderful past work archive: the photo is a former Miss Maddalena Corvaglia, and the image of a Mao Zedong female soldier in a typical Chinese environment The sculptures are side by side with grey-red brick walls in the background. The Italian model wore a green hat without a red star, wearing a leather jacket, camouflage pants, and high-heeled boots. Here, the East and the West are transformed into anthropomorphic images: a fixed “Chinese female soldier” represents an untouched past; and a western beauty contestant represents a certain stereotype. They are true and false, just like fashion in the context of globalization.