Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fashion designers participate in yearly festival celebrating elegant beauty of Chinese character

By Nancy T. Lu
Fashion lines ran gracefully and flowed elegantly like the cursive strokes of Chinese calligraphy at the Confucius Temple in Taipei on January 2. Parallels surfaced clearly for all to admire at the special event of the Chinese Character Festival to wind up on January 11 this year.

The spectators led by Taipei Vice Mayor Lee Yong-ping only remembered watching the studied and stylized paces of costumed schoolchildren at an annual ceremony in honor of the Great Sage in this sacred setting in the past. The modern fashion parade seemed unprecedented.

But on this night of nights, despite the drizzle, guests – many of them wearing the yellow plastic raincoats bought probably by the event organizer from the nearby convenience store – seemed all eyes on the high fashion trotted out on the ramp.

Sophie Hong, a fashion designer preparing to open her own shop in Paris in March, showed a collection of designs created on silk fabrics processed and transformed with the help of brush for special texture. The sophisticated but comfortable looks had suggestions of the “qi pao” or cheongsam as seen in the high collars and slits on the skirts. Hong playfully introduced pipings with an eye on asynmmetry. Her caftans carried her own colorful abstract paintings. Trademark clogs went with the dresses.

As for Tsai Mong-hsia, her inspired Chinese designs have come a long way since her days devoted to dressing up beauty queens. Long Deed has been the label built up by Tsai with success. She even made sure that her models wore Long Deed proudly on the catwalk. Tsai favored the dainty dress for the young from time to time.

Both Hong and Tsai invited calligraphy master and educator Chang Ping-huang to lend his refined Chinese brushwork – Chinese characters with auspicious meanings in particular – to plain white fabrics. These were eventually made into formal evening gowns. Chang has spent decades teaching generations through his popular and educational television program, “A Chinese Character A Day.”

Also present at this fashion event was famous Chinese painter and calligrapher Lee Chi-mao. He has been actively teaching the art of ink brushwork in universities in Taiwan as well as in the United States.

A t-shirt design competition among students reportedly attracted hundreds of entries. These were narrowed down to 30. The big winner of the evening applied different calligraphic strokes on a shirt, arranging the lines to create patterns and even introducing colors just like in a Mondrian work of art.

All photographs were taken by Nancy T. Lu.

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