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Inspiration From China's Villages

Angel Chang是克利夫蘭著名女鋼琴家張安麟的妹妹
 
 

 PARIS — When Angel Chang brews a pot of tea these days she uses leaves from a rural area in southwest China, the same place where her latest designs were created.
A top and dress by Angel Chang, part of her collection developed in China.
One recent morning, with some of her clothing piled on the table, Ms. Chang poured some of that tea into two small cups as she talked about the spot: Dimen village in Guizhou Province.
After three years of commuting to the region, the designer spent most of 2012 there, producing 40 pieces of clothing with the help of artisans from the Miao and Dong ethnic groups.
Ms. Chang discovered their crafts while visiting the Shanghai Museum in 2009. She had been working in New York, but was disillusioned by the economic downturn and felt she needed a change from working with high-tech elements, like the color-changing fabrics she had been using. At the museum, “I found these incredible costumes,” she said. “I assumed the clothes were 200 years old, but they had been made in the last 50 years.”
She became interested in the clothing, then in the ethnic minorities who created the fabric and its embellishment. Shortly after seeing the exhibition, she traveled to the region and, with the aid of a translator who has helped the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art find items for their collections, began learning about the villages and their artisans.
During one stop, she met a woman who had been working on a jacket for her son for two years. “We went to a village looking for a woman that could do triangle-pleated embroidery,” Ms. Chang said. “I was shocked. There was one light bulb hanging from the ceiling and a dirt floor. In this setting, she was creating the pieces I had seen in the museum.”
“In all this poverty, she is making something that is so exact and so perfect. It looked like couture,” she said.
Ms. Chang finally decided to draw on her experience at fashion houses like Donna Karan to create a collection using, as she phrases it, “1,000 years of ancient craftsmanship reinterpreted into modern design.”
In her Paris apartment, the samples of her custom-order styles were hanging on a rack nearby. The clothing — in yellows from dyes made of chrysanthemum and pomegranate, gray from the Chinese tallow tree, black from local barks, and indigo — is so familiar to Ms. Chang that she can tell their origins by touch: A soft silk was from Gulong village, a rougher cotton from Zhaoxing, she said.
One standout was a cotton damask suit in indigo, with a Perfecto-style jacket and cropped pants . The fabric was made by the Dong people of Hongzhou village, where they grow their own cotton and make indigo dye. Ms. Chang said it took her about a year, on and off, to find the right craftspeople. “It was a lot of detective work, driving from village to village and asking grandmas and finding out how to get there,” she said.
In Hongzhou, it takes one person about 30 days to produce enough cotton brocade for one adult-size jacket. When they create the fabric for themselves, it is used for baby carriers. “There are auspicious symbols woven into the material to protect the baby, while also telling the history of the people,” the designer explained.
In the village of Lishanzhai, Ms. Chang found a grandmother who could weave pure silk into a long-sleeve shirt and matching wide pants. Xijiang, the largest Miao village, made the dye for the silks, using mountain flowers, fresh leaves and tree bark.
“Soft yellow is dyed in May, when those flowers are in bloom, and black in July and August, when the bark can be removed without harming the tree,” she explained.
Ms. Chang, who was raised in Indiana and graduated from Columbia University, says she had a lot of help with her fashion efforts.
When Cartier invited her to speak at a women’s forum in 2010 — in 2007, she had won a Cartier Women’s Initiative Award — she met Jiang Qiong Er, artistic director and chief executive of Shang Xia, the contemporary Chinese luxury brand whose majority owner is the French fashion house Hermès.
With Ms. Jiang’s support, and later that of Pierre Berard, who at the time headed marketing in China for the distilled beverage company Pernod Ricard, Ms. Chang established herself in China. She began working with the Western China Cultural Ecology Research Workshop in Dimen, and eventually began seeing her collection as a way of helping local people sustain both themselves and their crafts.
At first, “I just wanted them to make me beautiful embroidery. My second instinct was why don’t they make my embroidery on a bigger scale? They were losing their eyesight,” she said. “Out of the initial want developed a social interest.”
Valerie Steele, chief curator and director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, was Ms. Chang’s thesis adviser at Columbia. “The Miao people have a tradition of incredible textile techniques,” she said. “It would be great if Angel could help keep that knowledge alive.”
Ms. Chang’s first pieces debuted at a Pernod Ricard fashion show and dinner in Shanghai in October 2012, and another group was shown in September 2013 at a Fashion 4 Development lunch in New York. She now is selling some styles through ahalife.com, an online retail site.
“The collection has the natural handwork in the fabrics and a unique style that I would like to see more of in the global market,” said Evie Evangelou, president and founder of the nonprofit Fashion 4 Development.
“Angel’s work is in line with the mission of F4D, to create economic development through fashion and also help preserve cultures.”
Ms. Chang says she remembers talking with a translator about how difficult it would be to have some fabric made in one of the Guizhou villages.
“He said no one will do it until you show them it can be done,” she said. “Kids in the countryside get out of high school and go and work in the fast fashion factories. I want to show them what their grandmothers do is cool.”

文章來源于紐約時報

 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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