Trip to Brazil V – Visit to UAM

I visited Carol’s school – Anhembi Morumbi University today. Yes the name is too long to remember – just call it UAM. There are over 170 universities in Brazil that offer the fashion major, this number is closed to the 200 in China (but we have 1.3 billion population! The number of fashion schools in Brazil is far beyond my expectation). I did a brief presentation of Chinese fashion to the students (btw Carol your students are wonderful! They asked some really good questions!). I always ask the audience about what they think of China before I start my presentation. Guess what are the answers from the students? Although we are in an internet age – I found very often we still know very little about each other (not only between China and Brazil, but all of other countries too). Are we really in a global village now? My Chinese friends are all so excited at my trip to Brazil – because by now none of them has been to this amazing country and they are all so curious about this place.

One common feature about teaching at fashion classes – no matter which country you are in – China, USA, Europe, now Latin American – you always see much more girls than boys, yes much more! Each class often only has one-two male students, but most top designers are men – guess why?

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Always look at the bright side – Some Thoughts on China and Chinese Fashion Industry

The organizer of the Brazilian conference says they would like to know why Chinese fashion industry develops so fast. No one expected China would have her own fashion 20 years ago. A friend asked me a similar question – why China made such dramatic change in the past 30 years? What a big question! What I found from my conversations with my Chinese friends and international friends is they often focus on different side of the same story. From the China side, all I hear are corruption, dictatorship, air pollution, poisoned food, hopeless education and blablabla. But what I often hear from my overseas friends are the inconceivable changes that China has made in past 30 years. China is the only country that made such great achievement without undergoing any severe political unrest.

When I was 19 years old, my boss told me that one often sees the bad side of the system when he is IN the system. But when he looks at the system from OUTSIDE of the system, he often discovers the good side of the system. So staff often finds the merits of his previous company when he changes his job, or notices in fact his previous boss is better than the current one; a man may find his ex is better than the new one (hopefully not)… Just like people often complaint a lot of our own home countries, and find other countries seem better than our own. The point is – no one is perfect, it all depends on which side you are looking at. Life is short – a way to make ourselves happy is to always look at the good side. (Apparently it does not mean we shall neglect the problems)

My Visit to Ai Weiwei “According to What” Exhibition

Today I went to see the exhibition of Ai Weiwei – ‘according to what’, curated by Brooklyn museum. I don’t really like all of his work, but the following ones are exceptions. For example, this one, themed with ‘moon chest’, is consisted of seven rectangular boxes, each of which has four holes, two on the top on both sides and two in the middle. The positions of holes vary by each box. So if viewing from one hole, you may see a consistent crescent moon shape, it is basically an optical art.

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A map of China made of discarded wood.

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A device assembled by round stools.

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Photos of recording the processing of destroying the porcelain pots that has thousands of history. The processing signifies that many historical antiques have been destroyed in China in past years.

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A stool with three legs. Two of the legs lean against the wall. Smart design.

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Another stool with four legs. Also very smart design.

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This is the piece touches my heart, which is about Wenchuan Earthquake that happened in 2008. As we all know, the fragile construction was the major reason that caused a huge loss of lives in this earthquake (based on the artist, nearly 90k people died). The steel bars here represent those fragile buildings. On the wall there are the names, grades, ages and addresses of 5,000 primary and junior high school students who died in this earthquake. The artist collected all of these names at his own cost. I’m sure you can imagine how much harsh work he paid for this! I don’t think I can even collect a completed contact list of my own friends. Every single life deserves respect regardless how young it is.

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The theme for this piece is “River Crab”, which has the same pronunciation with “Harmony” in Chinese. Another smart piece of the artist’s work! If you understand China you shall understand what this means.

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The Exhibition of “The Best Teen Art and Writing from Across the Country” in 2014

The Exhibition of “The Best Teen Art and Writing from Across the Country” in 2014.

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Gold Metal Award – Market Street. All the award winners are teenagers.

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This painting is very interesting. Please check how many people are there in the painting?

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This painting, “Watch Your Step”, is an optical art.

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Look at these amazing body paintings.

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“Behind the Party”, which is a combination of collage and painting.

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This is my favorite painting. However, it is hung too high to be shot from a nice angle.

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Look at the old lady’s arms in this painting. The title is “She Wears Her Heart on Her Sleeve”. It is fantastic, isn’t it?

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This chain-dress is done by a fifteen-year-old student.

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This dress is made of ropes and dried flowers.

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My trip to Harlem School of Arts in New York.

Harlem School of Arts was founded by an African American in 1940s, which is a non-profitable institution that provides arts training to teenagers under 18 years old. Unlike schools in China, this school charges very low tuition fee due to the fact that it mainly lives on the individual or institutional donations.

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In West, it is very common to see restaurants, boutiques and schools that have history for over 60 to 70 years. However, although China is known for its splendid history stretching over 5000 years, most of our shops and private schools have very short history. Those heritage buildings left by our ancestors were almost neglected if not damaged. As for the newly built ones, most of them have magnificent appearance but devoid of soul.

Because of the budget deficit, American government has cut the expense in public school education. This leads to the shutdown of some schools, joblessness of many teachers as well as transferring of students. In addition, art courses are cancelled because such courses are considered to be “useless” comparing with those “more practical” ones like science and math. As a consequence, many students who are interested in arts have to go to training school like this Harlem one to receive professional arts training. At the same time, the cancellation of those art courses leads to strong objections from some of the parents and scholars. Some scholars are conducting research in arts education and try to prove that children who received arts training incline to be more creative than those who don’t have relevant experience.

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Harlem School of Arts provides professional training including painting, photography, drama, sculpture, piano, drums and so on.

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These are paintings made by kids at the age of six or seven. I know kids at the same age in China who received arts training have better painting skills. Looks to me, Chinese training schools teach too much hard skills, but what kids need more shall be emotional expressions.

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I really like this painting. It seems to be quite simple but you can sense the girl’s sorrow.

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These are the sculptures by the kids.

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This is the performance of musician students. It is essential to have a teacher as company for those little kids. What they need is basically simple notes played by only one hand. This little girl can only play one or two notes with one hand but the teacher would create the melody with his hand. This transforms her performance into a song. For kids at such age, the meaning of such performance is to develop their confidence in performing instead of judging how well they can actually play.

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See how colorful and creative the hair and clothes of African American kids can be.

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Regardless of the nationality, all the parents love their kids with the same kind of hearts

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Parsons Final Thesis Presentation – Childrens collection.

Sporty but still girlish. Nice color coordination.

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It is not very easy to do childrens wear. Very often the design is a miniature of adults collection. But Parsons students demonstrated some talents in this area. This jacket is my favor too, simple clean cut but not boring. Good for teenager girl for schools in any formal event.

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Another wonderful boys collection. First, the models are so cute to cettain degree they distract some of the attentions…the color patterns look great on these little boys. All clean cut, color and pattern form a good story here.

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Parsons Final Thesis Presentation – Womens collection.

Every one loves this oversized jacket. Again exaggerated in details but still wearable and marketable. Noticed the oversized pocket and hem, plus the oversized loops on shoulder and back.

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Follow the previous oversized cardigan, these were designed by the same student. Two layered skirt with an oversized pocket.

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Inspired by body movement. Used tone on tone red color story plus the mix of the wool and silk to show the richness of the texture, informative but not complicated.

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Parsons Final Thesis Presentation – Accessory section.

Horse riding collections, including hammer, belt, bags and shoes. The presentation form testifies students’ presentation skills, merchandise planning and mix and match skills. Give attention to the set up of the table, the visual display is part of the exam. Again, creative in details and marketable, excellent craftsmanship. All students are requested to make products by themselves.

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My one favor collection. Made of fish skin. Natural but energetic color, eco~friendly. Again, good combination of merchandise and color story.

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Another my favoured collection. The designer used wood mould and compressed air to press the sculpture look of surface. The graphics are also interesting, keys, glasses, coins…all the stuff you place in your bags normally. This is about being creativity but still marketable. Smart, fun and functional. Would you buy one of them? I will.

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This collection was inspired by ocean. Well you can tell by the color and the texture. The designer dip the leather into water than use hand to create and mould the wave texture. The ocean blue color looks better than it is on picture. The pale orange decoration just brightens the whole collection.

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Fashion II

I arrive in Philadelphia today.

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The weather in east coast changes like this. I felt like I needed to wear a feathered coat yesterday but I am wearing a T-shirt today. Spring is so short and summer finally comes.

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The new trend now is riding a bike instead of driving a car, which is both healthy and environmental friendly.

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I come to Philly to attend a luxury management conference. One advantage academic study has over doing business is that doing academic study allows me to travel around the world and make friends with people from different institutions as long as your thesis or topic is attractive enough. Big companies can also make you travel around the world for free but most people you meet are those working in the same industry. Compared to this, doing academic study is more multiple. Another feature of international fashion study is that people of this subject are still focusing on clothes in China while here you can meet scholars doing laws, sociology, anthropology, management, engineering and even psychology besides fashion. The feature of interdisciplinary study is more obvious.

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Philly University also has department of fashion. I come across students from Dong Hua. Their university has exchange programs here. According to the teachers, students from Dong Hua are very hardworking and careful in their working. Basically those I met coming abroad to study fashion are all excellent. Well done.

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Sustainable fashion is getting more and more popular in the United States. This series of textiles are made from handmade organic cotton. Almost all people in this industry I met are working on products in similar area. And  my electronic magazine Ethical and Fashion will also launch the English version with the of several foreign friends. Thank my Lord for all your guidance.

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The designer for this series is a professor from Medical School in Harvard. Interesting, right? His interest in textiles dates back to the time when he went to Africa for field study on infectious diseases. He discovered that there were many interesting local handmade textiles and then he started to learn by himself. I find the wider one’s interdisciplinary study is, the more innovative it is.

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Zara is the biggest garment retailing store in the world. Its inditex CEO’s management strategy is to promote internal competitiveness continuously. Its several brands all work on their own without sharing spending on management and administration. Traditional companies would share spending if belong to one host company, like sharing office. warehouse and administration. But inditex requires complete independence and even competence.

There are several tendency of the development of luxury market. The first is individualized products – especially with the development of 3D technology which enables individualized products. The second is the use of high technology, especially the quick development of internet. The third is the balance between heritage and innovation.

According to one survey, Americans have regarded LV, Chanel, Hermes as aspirational luxury brands, almost the best one could own. Then comes Gucci and Coach, which are considered as affordable luxury. But what is affordable luxury? If it is affordable is it still luxury? Poor Gucci has been so different from its glorious past.

Luxury industry now has a tendency to become too accessible. Some brands which is not regarded as luxury by classical brands now also claim to be luxury. This makes those classical brands very annoyed. For real luxuries, there are several requirements which are necessary. The first is the culture and value accumulated through history and tradition. This is nothing like a simple slogan on magazines and Internet. However, at the same time, luxury brands have to adapt itself to the development of market. This is why many old European brands die out over years. They stick to their so-called value too rigidly. Second is the rarity of the material and technique. Luxury brands all have their special material supply chain. Now they also require unique manufacturing skills and the combination with high technology. The last part is high-end customer service. Designing is obviously very important but now designing has become so irreplaceable in every aspect of the society that it is no longer exclusive to luxury.

From my point of view, in 20 years, competitiveness only depends on two parts – creativity and execution. Many big companies stop when developed to certain stage. Part of the reason is that their success in the past restricts their mind – too dependent on past successful experience. For example, when the industry changes from traditional retailing mode to Internet retailing service, many traditional companies would be left behind. This is not the problem of changing method but rather changing settled notion and ways of thinking. But the most difficult thing for one to change is how to think. In addition, when one company reaches certain scale, the execution will inevitably slow down. As a consequence, there are few big companies surviving for a long time. Most foreign companies lasting for a long time are those medium size controlled by one family. But such companies in China are also hard to survive. People do not have enough tolerance. Brothers, relatives and even couples could turn against each other for money. If so, who else can tolerate and trust. Also Chinese are in lack of security and goal for future development.

China Fashion: Conversations with Designers

This book documents the rise (and rise) of fashion design in China. Told through the stories of three generations of designers: those born in the 20s and 30s, who were active before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949; those born in the 1950s and 60s, when fashion in China was isolated from the rest of the world and the wearing of “Mao suits” became obligatory; and those born in the 1970s and later, who are now attempting to integrate China in to the global fashion industry, not only as producers of clothing but as designers and marketers as well.

Chinese fashion in the past half-century is a fascinating case study, given that the country began in penury, isolation, and political correctness, went through a phase of militant anti-fashion ideology, and is now rapidly developing internationally-minded, and eager to challenge the world in all fields of endeavour. Written by an insider, this book provides a fascinating survey based on the personal, professional and creative experiences of the most influential Chinese fashion designers. As such it will be welcomed by all students of contemporary fashion and design.

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