US singer Beyonce wears a dress from Chinese fashion designer Yuan Qiqi. Photo: Courtesy of Yuan Qiqi
In February, less than two years after he established his own design studio, 21-year-old Chinese fashion designer Yuan Qiqi (original name Yuan Junhao) received an unexpected email from across the ocean: the PR team for US singer Beyonce said the singer wanted to wear an outfit from his 2021 collection – a red dress with stunning shoulder pads inspired by the traditional wear of China’s Yi ethnic minority – for the musician’s next album project Renaissance.
In his short career as a fashion designer, Yuan has been inspired by the diverse traditional cultures of China, from the turquoise of the well-known Song Dynasty (960-1279) painting A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains and the black of Chinese inkwash landscape paintings to the large shoulder pads of the Yi people.
Talking about how he was inspired by the Yi, Yuan said that one day he happened to come across a popular short video on Douyin, China’s TikTok, in which a group of elderly Yi men were wearing traditional clothes.
“I was surprised by their traditional style that was at the same time very modern. Their amazing dark blue undertones plus the eye-catching shoulder pads impressed me a great deal,” Yuan recalled to the Global Times.
Bearing that in mind, Yuan incorporated the shoulder design into his dress and used an impactful red as the base color of the garment.
As a young designer just starting out, Yuan had originally stuck to only hinting at these elements in his designs from time to time.
“I used to think that since I was young I wasn’t qualified enough to be able to bear this huge responsibility to advocate traditional Chinese culture because it is a massive system. I grew up with the modern and classic art from the West and I appreciate them. But as I dug deeper in both Chinese and international fashion design, I realized that the two don’t contradict each other,” Yuan told the Global Times.
Touching trending topics
Before he became recognized on the international stage, Yuan went viral after an appearance on a Chinese talk show two years ago. He was invited as a junior representative on the hit debate show I Can I BB, where the 19-year-old actively commented on one issue that he cared about: should boys be allowed to go to school in a dress?
Himself wearing a colorful long tulle dress, Yuan advocated that boys should be able to choose for themselves.
From COVID-19 to the concept of gender identity and cultural appropriation, this socially aware designer pays keen attention to all the leading and fresh, edgy but vague concepts and terms that are trending around the world.
He believes that visual representation of these social topics is “the most direct, convenient and quickest way” for him as a young man to transmit his ideas to the public.
With this in mind, Yuan injects his thoughts on social topics into his designs.
During Shanghai’s fight against the Omicron outbreak, the busy designer was left to stay at home, where he was given the chance to reflect on the more than two years of the pandemic and find inspiration from it.
In his recently released winter autumn collection, Yuan finds sustenance in surreal technology to explain his unconscious inner confusion and escape from the pandemic-shadowed real world.
“This is a wearable spaceship,” Yuan explained to the Global Times, pointing at an outfit with hard red wing-like decorations.
“The past three years have been a very unusual experience for me. On the one hand I felt that this isn’t the real world I used to live when I was little, on the other hand I wanted to escape into space.”
Yuan Qiqi’s design
Defending China’s culture
The recent controversy in which luxury brand Dior has been accused of culturally appropriating China’s traditional horse-face skirt has sparked discussion and anger on social media and in professional fashion circles in China.
Unlike some Western designers that show deep interest in Chinese culture and tend to lead customers to learning more about the culture, Dior, according to professionals speaking out on social media, “has somehow ignored the host country’s recognition of its own culture.”
Among these is the 21-year-old Yuan.
“Personally I respect Mr. Christian Dior, but Dior, as a brand, apparently mistook their commercial value for cultural authority. And Dior thinks that it can use Chinese culture in a high-profile way to transmit that culture to us, expecting that we will accept it,” Yuan told the Global Times.
The Dior controversy has triggered the young fashion designer’s desire to go from passively and occasionally adding traditional elements to his designs, to actively defending traditional culture as a designer.
“I used to think that I wasn’t qualified to promote what I want to protect because I lacked systematic knowledge about the subject. However, the Dior issue has made me realize the urgency to protect and promote my own culture,” he said.
“There are so many staggering designs in ancient people’s clothing that we as young designers need to learn, understand, deconstruct and promote.”
New Jersey, United States – Verified Market Research has recently published a research report titled, “Global Fashion And Apparels Print Label Market Insi
KINGSTON, R.I. – May 30, 2023 – URI Professor of Languages Karen de Bruin of Middletown, director of the University of Rhode Island Honors Program, has
For immediate release MARLBOROUGH – Superintendent Ernest F. Houle is pleased to share that a student in Assabet’s Fashion Club will compete in Junk Kouture
By Joe Yogerst | CNN It’s been a banner year for nudity around the globe. Berlin recently announced that women can now go topless at the German capital’s pu