the wrong: competing from weakness

last month, the latest intertextile was held in shanghai. textile mills (and their agents) all over the world were exhibiting their fall / winter 2011 fabrics collections and competing for share in the fastest growing market. bucol carries the best fancy silk. for lace, you just go to soltiss. solbiati provides top quality natural-fiber woven such as cotton, linen and wool. cut-and-sewn knits belong to mario boselli. denim? kaihara. no question.

that got me thinking: what made them who they are today? the money? the history? the passion? it is all of the above and more. it is the tradition. and, it was a very nice way to work in the pre-internet era. information was restricted. techniques were passed down from generation to generation within the family. it would take decades to master all the little tricks and secrets of the trade. but this business model does not work neither in china nor the post-internet economies.

i disagree with the western point of view of china being merely a copying nation. modern china is relatively young comparing even to the us. we are only 60 years old and we are in the economics adolescence for the pass 25 years. speaking of tradition within such a short time is like examining the cooking skill of a chief of mcdonald – there is none to be found. copying is how you learn. copying is part of growing up. look at japan in the 70’s.the first skyline by toyota was an effort to “learn” from the americans how to build a muscle car, only cheaper and smaller. i bet a ford mustang owner was laughing at the skyline back then. but somewhere along the way, the toyota found its own way (the manga culture and the rising video gaming industry lent a great hand). the latest skyline is nothing to sneeze at – with the million renminbi price tags and its performance, it is more like a ferrari then any ford.

drawing parallel between the two counties in different era is a mistake. unlike japan in the 70’s, because of the internet, new china has an abundance of information, which crowded out both traditions and new ideas. so i would argue that copying is more a by-product of the time and place in history for the chinese.

with the backing of hermès, shang-xia is aiming to be a chinese luxury brand building on the tradition of chinese craftsmanship and nothing else. according to its website, it is “chinese and asian heritage crafted for contemporary lifestyle”. it could be very beautiful and extremely successful financially, but it sounds very boring to me. where is the excitement? what is the new idea here? to truly build a modern chinese hi-end brand, the idea of tradition would be a negative one. we can’t compete on the history and heritage with the western companies. nor should we. chinese customers will dominate the new luxury market. so why are we playing their game of tradition?

(first published in the dec. 2010 issue of his life magazine)

italian does it better

the right: take initiative, even when you are at the top of the food chain

for a designer, it is important to be able to see, feel and experience different cultures. yves saint laurent’s pioneering spanish collection (1976), russian collection (1976) and chinese collection (1977) were good proofs of this. with the internet, the world is a much smaller place and pictures are readily available. however, you cannot compare looking at the mona lisa online and standing in front of the real painting in the louvre; just because you brought a cookbook does not mean you know how to cook. that is why traveling is so important for creativity.

i have been very lucky that work brought me to travel the world – new york, los angeles, paris, london, tokyo, berlin, barcelona, antwerp, etc., except milan. in fact, i had ever been to any part of italy. that is the source of a joke for most of my close friends. italian cuisine is my favorite. italian fabrics i love. italian renaissance was an integral part of my art education. yet, i had never been to italy.

that was before mid september, because i just went to florence and milan. florence is widely regarded as the birthplace of the renaissance with de vinci and michelangelo. and it is still well known for its leather craft business. but truth be told, their leather products can hardly compete with the luxury brands nowadays, not after the race of creating the “it” bag every season for the past decade. about 40 minutes from the center, there are some great outlet shops. space is a mighty big warehouse for prada and miu miu. and the mall has everything from pucci to gucci, from marni to bally, from balenciaga to stella. but the one standout is the pharmacy of santa maria novella who sells beauty products and perfume made by the monks. nice products with a great story. how can you beat that? my problem with florence is that now it is basically a town made up of tourists. so even with all that history behind it, florence is strangely unauthentic.

milan is totally different. duomo di milano is still beautiful but the city is much more about fashion. fashion quadrangle contains the most prestigious boutiques and showrooms in the world densely packed all within walking distance. it was amazing taking in all the visual information just by window-shopping. i cannot descript it with words; you have to experience it yourselves.

the night before i left was the fashion night out. it is the second edition of an international event conceived by american vogue (possibly by anna wintour) to fight the great recession of 2009. basically, it was one big block fashion party on the street in all of the world’s major cities. i had some free champagne from the stella mccartney store and the balenciaga store. no one was really shopping, but the fun was making fashion exciting again. it was great to see the most influential fashion press trying to change the world for the better. let’s hope the fashion brands can follow the lead with their products.

(first published in the nov. 2010 issue of his life magazine)

east meets west?!

being in hong kong in the 80’s, all the cool magazines were talking about east meets west. it seemed like an interesting concept back then. i was thinking maybe that was hong kong, a place where all the westerners would wear cheongsam (qipao), all the chinese would drive their mercedes benz in suits, and all the 5 stars hotels would have some vintage chinese teak furniture somewhere.

by late 80’s early 90’s, i got to study abroad at the states. and i could not find anyone talking about west meets east in new york. there are all different kinds of cultures coming and melting together, but everyone maintains their identity. the sushi restaurants were packed with westerners, but you would not see them wearing kimonos. then, what is my identity as a designer from hong kong? i realized that the marketing plot of east meets west is very damaging to the sense of belonging of all the hong kong people. maybe it could help selling a few more pieces of silk dresses from shanghai tang, but it could not be the foundation of an international brand. comparing it to prada, and you can easily see something missing in the dna of shanghai tang.

what is the east and what is the west anymore? modern technology and the internet in particular is making the world a much smaller place with information travelling with the speed of light. thus, the meeting of the 2 is no longer as interesting as it was 30 years ago. it is far more important now to maintain who we are in the east then to meeting the west. it is far more exciting to get to know more about our avant-garde artists in beijing and their works then to research about impressionism. and it is far more joyful to travel within the greater china area to gain a better understanding of us as a people then to visit the static european countries. we have been very curious about the outside world for the past 20 years, and it is time to keep that curiosity and turn it inward. what we might see could surprise ourselves.

(first published in the oct. 2010 issue of his life magazine)






(第一次发表: 2010年10月 他的生活杂志. 翻译: grace chen)

prison break

the wrong: imprisoned by our own long history

5 years ago, i was throwing around an idea of building a chinese fashion house. all the feedbacks from china were 1) copy, copy, copy, 2) make it look like a western brand, and 3) give it a european name. no one said anything about the actual customers. no one said anything about an original vision. and, no one said anything about a long-term strategy. 5 years later, i am still getting the same answers. and no, i am not taking those “advices”.

i suspect our proud 5000 years of chinese culture and history are not doing us any good regarding designs. at this point in time, not only should we break from the western ideals in aesthetic, but also our own past history. if design is about exploration and navigation of our contemporary life, then we should be looking for new frontier of the modern lives, not the remains of our cultural ruins. please forget about all those dragon motifs visually. please let go of all those emperors and dynasties conceptually. please stop using all these ancient similes conversationally. and please: do not be imprisoned by our own past.

when i went to 798 for the first time a few years back, i saw lots of artworks dealing in the rein of politics. the americans ate that stuff up, but as a chinese citizen, i found that too far removed from everyday lives and the general reality of the here and the now. in other words – boring! then there were those artworks with which their main idea is to update the past to the future: pop art ink drawings, the ceramic coca cola cans, the modern installation using ancient furniture from the forbidden city, etc. these were all good gimmicks… for about 5 minutes – boring! and let’s not even mention the “east meets west” rubbish; that stuff lays so deep inside the mind-prison that i am not even going to comment on that – boring!

however, i came across some artworks that excited me. those were free of our historical baggages as a people. the artists just deal with the everyday lives without referring to the past. the artworks are all witnesses of the modern history of the rise of china. i invite you to check out the brilliant minds of yue minjum, zhang huan, and ju ming.

i am not saying we should develop our own form of internet from the ground up. a good thing is a good thing. but if we are going to copy, we should copy the thought process, not the end products. i don’t want your fish; i want to learn how to fish. don’t just hire all the international celebrity designers and architects to work on our projects; we should mix in our own creative talents to learn, to adopt and to find our own paths. not to be limited by our 5000 years of experiences, to be a trailblazer is to have one’s own beliefs, own value, and own strategy.

(first published in the aug. 2010 issue of his life magazine)






(第一次发表: 2010年8月 他的生活杂志. 翻译: grace chen)

(printed) deacon

i was shopping a month ago at givenchy and found a pair of pants i like. after i realized it’s over us $500, i decided to sample some printed pants that i can’t find anywhere else. then, i was thinking maybe i would make some allover prints tees as well. why not printed shirts? eventually, with some print jackets, i am doing a whole line of bold menswear with a (daily)dozen pieces. and it costed less than the pants.

this is the way i always wanted to dress, if i could find it. so here i am, making my statements with crazy shit. maybe it’s out of control. maybe i’m out of my mind. but that’s me. if you want good solids, go to ‘gucci’, go to ‘uniqlo’. ‘deacon’ is unique.

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stop copying!

the wrong: copy blindly & stupidly

once upon a time in new york, all you had to do to build a fashion business was to copy the french couture houses. you took the ferry across the atlantic ocean, tried to get into the shows, found the exact knockoff patterns, went home, and raked it in. later on, on 1968 someone started a company copying yves saint laurent and went on to create a multi-billion dollars company. that someone is calvin klein. if you try that today in new york, you will probably last 12-18 months and then realize all your investment is gone because no one will pay any attention.

if you are trying to start a new business in china today, my advice is: stop copying. the western appropriation era of china is fast closing. yes, there is a successful example of h&m in china called me & city. yes, there is also a chinese nike called ni ling. polo “became” sept. wolves. but, china pace of changes is unprecedented. the path pioneered by the west may not be suitable for us. and even it proved to work, it doesn’t mean it will still work. if you just want to follow ni ling’s road to success, you will be disappointed that a few bridges were burned long ago. you will see them ahead, but never get there.

with all the information available online and otherwise, the quality of the chinese customers is rapidly improving. thus, to build a successful label is to be a trailblazer. go where no one has been before. byd is building a car business with their own lithium ion battery technology in an effort to jump ahead of the traditional gasoline-base brands and thus dominate the industry. even though the result remains to be seen, the courage, the method, and the ideas are visionary. copy that.

if you told tadashi yanai 25 years ago that he would build the biggest japanese clothing brand to compete international and be the richest man in japan ahead of the real estate developer, tech investor, and bankers, he would probably think you are crazy. yiner started with only 7 sewing machines 16 years ago and has over 500 stores today. i understand that the goal is to first make a huge amount of money, then figure it out later. (ellesay can now hire jean paul knott as consultant.) but time is different and my point is to ‘think far, act near’. a good counter example is, again, byd. the first logo is a not-so-subtle copy of bmw, but now, they had to change it to move onto the international stage. ni ning is changing their nike look-alike logo by the end of this year to compete in the european market.

time is different. look far and build something in china for chinese, build an identity, learn everything about your customers, and stand for your beliefs. never underestimate your customers! stop copying now!

(first published in the jul. 2010 issue of his life magazine)


从前的纽约,如果想创造一个时尚品牌,那么最好的途径就复制法国。轮船横跨大西洋,带来了 t 台秀的灵感以及最时尚的潮流。后来,有人在1968年,复制了 yves saint laurent,进而建立一个亿元规模的公司,这个人就是 calvin klein。同样的模式,如果在今天的纽约尝试,你可能会徒劳12-18个月,然后发现事实并非当年,没有人理会你了。

如果你想在中国启动一个新的业务,我的建议是:停止复制。盗用西方观点的时代马上就要终结。这里有 h&m 的复制品 me & city,当然也有成功的例子“中国式 nike — 李宁……中国的变化速度是前所未有的,曾经适用于西方的路径可能不适合我们。事实证明,即使有个案成功,也不意味着它能产生长期价值。如果你只是想跟着李宁的道路走向成功,你会感到失望。

根据网上提供的反馈,中国客户服务的质量正在迅速提高,它是一个成功的品牌的开路先锋。byd 创造了自己独有的锂离子电池技术,是为了跳出现状,领先于传统燃烧汽油的汽车品牌,从而主导汽车行业业务。尽管结果仍有待观察,但勇气,方法和思想是有远见的。

25年前的柳井忠,放出狠话要建立日本最大的服装品牌,成为最富有的领先的房地产开发商、技术投资者和银行家,你可能会认为他疯了。 因为这句豪言壮语只始于7台缝纫机,而今天,塔发展成了拥有超过500家商店的品牌。据我所知,“优衣库”的理念是先普及,再设计(先以低廉的价格在消费者心中打开认知和市场,进而再在实用的单品上添加设计元素)。不得不承认,优衣库以其自己的方式走向了国际。再举一个反例——比亚迪,之前的 logo 与宝马的 logo 有微妙的相似,但却没有因为此走上国际舞台,于是比亚迪有了新 logo。曾经 logo 相似的李宁与耐克,也在各自改进,以“不可复制”的个性驰骋在消费者中间。


(第一次发表: 2010年7月 他的生活杂志. 翻译: 朱婷婷.)

heroes & the time

the right: being creative… in the business side

the heroes shape the time, or the time shapes the heroes?

in the case of fashion, i would definitely say it is the latter. coco chanel once pronounced: “i set the fashion for a quarter of a century. why? because i knew how to express my own time.” since the best fashion always reflects its period, the great designers were mostly shaped and determined by their time and environment. chanel liberated women with jersey, with the little black dress, etc. christian dior gave women the new look. yves saint laurent empowered women with his le smoking tuxedo suit. none would be possible if they did not realize their time and place in fashion with regards to their social period.

what else is essential to become a great fashion designer? creativity? a great point of view? a handsome face? good relationships with the press? yes to all of the above, but the most important is the right business partner – a fashion ceo with a capital f. it is not just any ceos; she/he has to love fashion more than cash. understanding of the long-term nature of identity building and the intangibles of a designers’ brand is a must, while never loses sight of the company’s balance sheet. absent of an ego is imperative to co-exist with designers who egoistic being one of the defining quality. in this business, communication skill has to be second nature: the fceo has to be able to communicate as easily and flawlessly as breathing. she/he is like the king of its world but ultimately serves its queer (correction: queen). it really could be done: pierre bergé to yves saint laurent. barry k. schwartz to calvin klein. domenico de sole to tom ford. robert duffy to marc jacobs.

those are qualities that are not exactly second nature for our chinese people; none of our ancient kings severed their queen. teamwork is fine as long as she/he is the cristiano ronaldo of the real madrid. is it a surprise that none of our national teams consisted of more than 2 people succeeded in the beijing olympics? it is really hard to find good fashion management talents, just like it is hard to find someone to play defenders on our national soccer team. every one wants to score those gorgeous and glamorous goals, but no one is willing to do the dirty work and play the under-appreciated defense.

the irony is: the part that really needs creativity is the business side of fashion. coach turned itself from a manufacturing business to a marketing business offering “affordable” luxury with great timing. zara got creative on their logistics to create amazing value for their customers. h&m practically invented fast fashion. polo paved the way for lifestyle fashion. calvin klein owned the underwear and fragrance business with his ads. duffy once said on twitter: “marc is the dreamer; it’s my job to make it a reality.” he accomplished that creatively, and more. we need more people like that for fashion design to flourish in china.

(first published in the jun. 2010 issue of his life magazine)

英雄造時勢, 或是時勢造英雄?

时尚界发生的那些奇迹,归根到底都是“好时机”的产物。香奈儿女士曾经说:“我成为近半个世纪人们认可的时尚偶像,为什么?因为我懂得善于时代。”于是,生命力最长久的流行趋势总是传达时代的声音,伟大的设计师们的作品大多由他们所处的时间和环境决定的。香奈尔呼应妇女解放的球衣与黑色小礼服、迪奥给予妇s女新面貌的“new look”、伊夫•圣罗兰与他的权力西装燕尾服和吸烟装。武断地说,倘若设计师们对他们所处的社会形态毫无感知,这些成功都将灰飞烟灭。

还有哪些因素是成为一个伟大设计师的条件?创意?良好的视觉剪裁?一张美丽的模特脸?出色的宣传?当然基于上述因素外,更重要的是选对商业合作伙伴——他一定要对时尚狂热,而非金钱。理解并支持设计师的表达,同时帮助设计师建立长久发展的个人风格,但又能保证财务方面的平衡并且控制设计师天马行空的表达被确定在一个标准。在这个行业,社交与传播能力已成为成功与否的第二考量:作为设计师背后的金主,他必须让各个生产、设计、售卖的环节顺畅自如。他是世界之王,但最终服务的王后(设计师)。一些成功的榜样可以说明问题:pierre bergé之于yves saint laurent、barry k. schwartz之于calvin klein、domenico de sole之于tom ford……



(第一次发表: 2010年6月 他的生活杂志. 翻译: 朱婷婷.)

reflecting the time

thai film ‘uncle boonmee who can recall his past lives’ won the top prize palme d’or at cannes today. it is a story about a dying man who engages in a conversation with an apparition of his late wife and his son who has reappeared in the form of a red-eyed monkey. i am sure it’s a pretty good movie. but i am also pretty sure there are more factors at work putting it over the top.

coco chanel once said: ‘i set the fashion for a quater of a century. why? because i knew how to express my own time’. the reverse is also valid. i am convince that the raise in the popularity of the korean movies, soap operas, and celebraties had more to do with north korea than people think – the whole (still ongoing) nukes episode had forced not just the north, but also the south korean onto the world consciousness.

writer/director apichatpong weerasethakul should have thanked the ‘red shirt’ demonstrators and his (idiotic) prime minister in his acceptance speech for making all these possible for him.

pucci and missed opportunities

the wrong: paralyzed by heritage

designers stephan janson, julio espada, christian lacroix and mathew williamson all swung and missed. currently, poor peter dundas is still just looking for the bat. we are talking about a game of pucci.

to many, pucci is a colorful retro-print house. i suspect that such a strong but narrow identity is doing more harm than good. no one dared to move it forward (like nicolas ghesquiere did with balanciaga). no one managed to fake a history onto the company (like tom ford did with gucci). and, no one figured to just take it by the horns and move it the way she/he see fits (like john galliano did with dior). everyone spent a little too much time with pucci’s archive.

there were just too many missed opportunities, with the latest being the inkjet (or digital) fabric printing technology. the british fashion student first started using it for their thesis. with advances of bulk production capacity of the past few years, digital print appeared on runway of hussein chalayan (depicting car crashes), alexander mcqueen (extraordinary textural visual effect, as expected from him), mary katrantzou (bottling up the female body), etc. can you imagine the possibilities of applying this technology to the house of pucci? apparently, none of the passing designers could.

they can’t just keep slapping the pucci prints onto lingerie, cups, hats, etc. to be relevant today, pucci need to show a belief in something. if all pucci stands for are those tired old ‘original’ prints, then they should realize their market really only exists on ebay. pucci, like china, should NOT be paralyzed by its heritage, its history and even its identity (be respectful of the character). turn the page!

note: versace is fast becoming a pucci of our generation – increasing historic identity with decreasing relevancy.

co-incident 6?

on the left, we have past tees from junk food.
on the right, we have the summer ’10 ut all stars by uniqlo.

i am pretty sure that’s not a co-incident. but uniqlo never claimed to be original. indeed, their mission statement is ‘to continuously provide fashionable, high quality, basic casual wear at the lowest prices in the market – casual wear that anybody can wear whenever and wherever.’ if you are in their way, then good luck to you.

do you know: uniqlo is short for unique clothing warehouse, and it was supposed to be uni.clo. when they commissioned their hong kong agent to register the name for hong kong and the greater china area, he made the mistake. however, when it was reported to tadashi yanai san, he thought the ‘q’ instead of the ‘c’ more unique, more lively, and more ‘cute’. and he renamed all stores to uniqlo.

a single man

the right: once in a while, people should be a bit selfish and follow their hearts. success sometimes would follow as well

i am probably the last to write about this tom ford directorial debut. and i am the first to admit that i hated all those gucci collections. but i love this movie.

to be expected, it’s a great looking film: the not-overly-slim suits, the semi-transparent house, the wild-within-control mercedes convertible, the slightly-off-beautiful actors. the color story is unexpectedly 3-dimensional; the changes of the color intensity correspond with george’s mood and sensuality. tom ford picked the novel of the same name by christopher isherwood, and did a great job of adopting the screenplay himself, understanding that a great story is essential to his movie much the same way a great inspiration is critical for his fashion shows. the soundtrack is a perfect complement to the visuals, similar to the hair and makeup completing the looks, again, at his fashion shows.

colin firth is amazing. and i love the ‘becoming george’ part. and i love the ending with james ‘coming back’ and kissing george. what a romantic idea (kiss) of death! it’s not just about being homosexual, that would be too narrow a view. it’s more then just beauty, for that is too shallow (that’s what i thought of tom ford before). it’s not very commercial, and that is a shocker! it is about love. it is about life.

i never knew tom ford has such sensuality, this movie puts his old works in totally new contexts. maybe there are other sides of tom ford that we didn’t know about. he did (and financed) this movie for himself and that alone deserves praise. after gucci and before tom ford menswear, someone asked him about a namesake women’s line. he answered that it wouldn’t happen before he direct a movie. with that out of the way, and rumor has it that he is busy building a women’s team, i am looking forwards to it with great expectation.

alexander mcqueen, 1969-2010

mcqueen is dead.

when he was establishing himself in the global world of fashion around the time he got chosen for the gig at givenchy by bernard arnault himself, i was in school learning the craft of making clothes. every one of my classmates that was hip and cool admired him for his obvious talent. the cover of bjork’s homogenic album, the car-robots spray-painting white cotton dress on shalom harlow, the usage of double amputee model aimee mullins in his show with carved wooden legs all confirmed mcqueen’s genius. pure creativity. his fashion shows were really a show with such strong identity – strong, dark romantics, and always a bit tragic.

let’s look at it at a different angle. mcqueen once famously said: “i’m mad in the front of my mind, but business-minded in the back”. in that regards, we have to mention tom ford, who took a 3 millions us dollars gucci business and grew it 1000 folds within 10 years. creatively, not many people are missing ford’s creations. however, holistically, ford is every bit a genius designer as all the great ones in the past. the same can be said about reed krakoff of coach.

gucci already announced the continuation of the label. outsiders such as the financial analysts are betting that it will be closed in the future, insiders are optimistic that it will go to the next level commercially since now there will be less dreams and more reality. labels survives pass its founder, but there are not many yves saint laurents in the world to save all the dior, and there are not many nicolas ghesquieres to resurrect all the balenciaga. for me, mcqueen the label is now just a skeleton with no soul.

suicide is never right, but some people are hard to be imagined growing old: james dean, leslie cheung, and now alexander mcqueen. einstein, stephen hawking, and leonardo da vinci live well into their latter years, but some geniuses do die young. being british, mcqueen chose to hang himself. i guess there is some sort of tradition. american tends to employ guns, such as the case of kurt cobain. and carbon dioxide poisoning is more popular in some asian countries. they are probably saying something about each culture and its history.

one can be talented, creative, and / or commercial gifted. however, as a designer, the most important is to be true to oneself. lee mcqueen was.

(first published in his life magazine)

to fashion designers everywhere:

last time we talked about the troubles of fashion design in china. now, let’s look at the universal problems of fashion design in the world.

charles frederick worth is widely considered to be the first designer to have his label sewn onto his garments in the late 1800’s. that means the existence of fashion designers are only about 100 years old. it is not inconceivable that fashion designers could be rendered obsolete in our lifetime, much like a typesetter or a bus ticket collector. at the very least, the relevance is being lessened by the modern phenomenon of celebrity; lindsay lohan is in charge of emanuel ungaro (anyone really believe the spanish designer estrella archs call the creative shots should have their heads examined). sara jessica parker is heading up the new halston heritage line in more ways than one, being the chief creative officer, as well as the president, and was given an equity stake in the company. let’s not forget about kanye west.

what should a designer do? well, i would concentrate on fashion and design. forget about marketing, the future is all about products. an identity formed by great merchandizes will stand the test of time.

for a brief period of time in ’99, i was the stylist assistant of alex white of w magazine so that i can learn a few things about the press. (i wasn’t the only one figured that out: alexander wang interned at teen vogue and thakoon panichgul was a writer for harper’s bazaar in the late 90’s.) one time, there was a mixed up for an outfit in the closet and another editor threw a fit to the point that i was yelled at by bridget foley. all i could think of was that all the new york designers’ works looked all the same. once the labels came off, there was no way i can tell which jacket is from which “big-time” designer. sure enough, i started looking for any outfit without a label and voilà i found it. that’s when i realized the important of the identity of a design house. you know that is a helmet lang, a balenciaga, or a mcqueen when you see one.

i see many newcomers with whole collections and their fashion shows. first, it is a waste of their limited resources – most of them will run out of energy with the shows and have nothing left for sales, marketing and logistics, stuffs that actually support a business. second, times are different now. renaissance men belong to…. the renaissance. what is needed now is expertise. for watches? rolex. for leather accessories? hermes. for trench? burburry.

a good example is aitor throup. he is a known designer worked with c.p. company on the updated mille miglia jacket and with umbro on new soccer outfits. but for his own debut collection this season, it is only about the “legs” – 38 pairs of trousers were dressed on carefully crafted sculptures and suspended from the ceiling in a gallery space in paris. by concentrating on pants, he is saying more about the contemporary menswear than the lv men show by his expertise on structure and process.

let your works speak for yourself.

(first published in the mar. 2010 issue of his life magazine)



1800年末,charles frederick worth被认为是第一位把品牌商标缝制在自己服装上的设计师。换句话说,服装设计品牌的存在只有100多年。大胆的说,在我们的有生之年,服装设计师这个概念的存在会过时甚至被代替也不奇怪,就好比一位排字工人或公交车收票员慢慢地在被淘汰。明星的存在逐渐的在减弱设计师的重要性就证明了这一点。lindsay lohan在负责服装品牌emanuel ungaro的设计(西班牙设计师estrella archs早已不再发号施令)。sara jessica parker在率领halston heritage系列的每一个环节,她不但是主设计师也担任了总经理的位置,同时拥有该公司的股权。我们也别忘了kanye west。


在1999年的短暂的一段时间里,我曾经为《w》杂志的alex white当过时装助理,为了近一步了解媒体的运转(我不是唯一有这念头的人:alexander wang曾经在《teen vogue》作过实习生,thakoon panichgul也曾在90年代末给《harper’s bazaar》写过稿子)。还记得有一次在拍摄现场上出现了服装上的混乱,bridget foley冲着我骂了起来。当时我脑子里只能想的是纽约设计师的作品看上去全一模一样。一但把品牌的商标撤下来,我无法识别哪一件夹克是哪一位大师的作品。我翻来覆去地去找没有商标的衣服,果然找到了那件夹克。这让我领悟到,一个设计团体拥有着独自代表性的风格是件多么重要的事情。一眼看到你就知道那是helmet lang、balenciaga或mcqueen。


设计师aitor throup就是一个很好的例子。他曾经设计过c.p. company的mille miglia夹克和umbro的足球服装系列。至于他自己首次亮相的服装系列,称为“褪”系列——38条裤子被穿在精心打造过的雕塑上面,并由绳索悬空垂钓着在巴黎的一个艺术廊里。把注意力完全聚集在裤子上,比起lv的男装秀,他更能从结构和工艺的专业角度上体现出当代男装的核心。

(第一次发表: 2010年3月 他的生活杂志. 翻译: joe wang.)

to fashion designers in china:

think about picking the new beijing olympic stadium back in 2003, if my design were just with bricks and cements, would i have gotten the project?

let’s say you are driving a bmw. a newer model comes out and it looks great. very modern. but then you find out that the horsepower didn’t change. no new safety features. the fuel efficiency didn’t even improve. basically, all that is change is the new styling of the exterior. would you buy it? what about getting a new designer chair? a new phone? a new computer? i think you got the point – a new styling is not really a new design. so here is my real question: why are you buying yesteryear’s technology when you are buying fashion?

fashion champions vintage like no other design fields. couture values how many thousand of man-hours are needed to make one dress, how the embroidery techniques are unchanged for over a century. how backward is that? if vintage is so great, then why are we buying new stuff? yea, i am talking to you, marc jacobs.

and this bring me to fashion design in china. playing catch up with the west is a losing battle. competing in the quality of traditional tailoring with the italian is a slow and painful process even if you win. and we are at a great disadvantage if we simply subject ourselves to the judges of good taste from france.

we need to look no further than the chinese auto industry for hints. wang chuan-fu, the ceo of ‘byd’, knows styling is only part of the equation. to outrun the gasoline-based car companies and truly compete internationally, he saw lithium ion batteries as the solution – new technology. for examples, how can we utilize the sneakers production technology and create something new and fashionable that we can call our own?

armed with the knowledge and the experience of western designers, we should all be new style trailblazers to push fashion forwards. and let technology be our tools.

(first published in the feb. 2010 issue of his life magazine)



时装界的大腕儿们比起任何其它设计领域都要老式。高级定制时装不在乎花费多少人工来完成一件礼服,还有几百年来始终不变的刺绣技术。这不是在倒退是什么?如果老式这么好我们又为何在买新的东西?没错,我正在说marc jacobs,他向来是时尚界中一位笨拙而孤僻的局外人。同时,他又是最酷、最具影响力的时装设计师。著名时尚评论人suzy menkes曾经 在《国际先驱论坛报》上写道:“lv的08s/s整场表演是对经典时尚的一次拙劣模仿。”




(第一次发表: 2010年2月 他的生活杂志. 翻译: joe wang.)

a view on mens fashion

the wrong: using the same idea on the wrong context

product design, music, fashion, architecture, and movies.

which one of the above does not belong in the same group?
(hints: music is about emotions. movies are about experiences. product design is about function. architecture is about belonging. fashion is about cash.)

the answer is…. fashion. all others are about ideas.

but, it could be worst, when fashion has the wrong ideas – look at the givenchy menswear spring ‘08. please tell me what man would wear pink lace shorts and men’s tights? and what is his statement anyways? another example is thom browne spring ’09. he has similar ideas to put men in skirts. there were pants with a crotch dropped so low as to make them look like dresses? how many guys can dress like marc jacobs to work and to play?

when yves saint laruent pioneered the androgynous idea in 1966, he was reflecting his time and empowering women by giving them the option of wearing clothes with influence and power – menswear. that was a great idea. putting women’s clothes on a men’s body? that is a bad idea.

a female body is gracefully sculptural with attractive curve for child bearing; a male body is simply and totally utilitarian for hurting. womenswear designer spent over 100 years to perfect it for women. using those research and development for men is as appropriate as knocking off the aviation technology for submarines – ridiculous. so what should a fashionable man do?

think uniforms.

(first published in the jan. 2010 issue of his life magazine)