[CND, 02/13/02] After many years of aping Western fashion, mainland Chinese are again wearing traditional Chinese designs, fabrics, and clothes. Across the country, people rich and poor are buying the traditional silk and cotton outfits, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
WANG Gang's shoe company did well despite the recession last year, reaping $2 million in profits.
To celebrate, the entrepreneur purchased a suit of traditional Chinese clothes, made of fabric woven from golden silk thread and decorated with patterns of ancient Chinese copper coins with white feathery wings.
You like? This real gold! exclaimed Wang, a jolly 42-year-old
with a gravelly voice and somewhat broken English, twirling around
with fashionable flair at Beijing's airport. Wang was waiting to board
a flight home to his parents' house in Zhejiang province in eastern
China for the Spring Festival holidays for the Year of the Horse.
Although Wang's flashy gold attire might not be for everyone, he had
nothing but praise.
This, he intoned happily,
In Beijing, Chinese executives who work at Western companies have
begun to dress for work in shirts with hand-stitched Chinese
buttons. In Shanghai, women who used to go all out for a Western-style
white wedding with a big lacy Western-style dress are
requesting a red cheongsam, a traditional, close-fitting style of
dress with a slit up the side that dates from the Manchu ethnic group,
rulers of the Qing dynasty. The cheongsam is also newly cool in the
southern boomtown Guangzhou, but is usually worn there as a miniskirt
with a very high slit.
My boyfriend doesn't like me to wear this dress too much, said
Zhao Linlin, a slim 19-year-old from Guangdong, draped in a black
cheongsam mini atop Gucci boots.
He worries that men stare at me too much, she said as she
looked through books in a Beijing bookstore, a large Chinese character
for happiness splashed in gold across her behind.
Chinese fashion arbitors say the trend toward traditional clothes first began about two years ago, and gained steam after last October's meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Shanghai, when China gave the leaders of all participating countries traditional blue or red Chinese silk jackets for a group photo.
President Bush might have looked a little uncomfortable in his royal blue jacket emblazoned with peonies, but his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, wearing the red that is both highly traditional and the color of the Communist Party, smiled beatifically.
The APEC meeting added dry kindling to the fire, wrote the
Liberation Daily of Shanghai about the emerging fad.
In stores across Beijing, buyers acknowledged the APEC meeting as the impetus for their decision to choose traditional clothes for the big Spring Festival meal, which occurred Monday night, New Year's Eve.
At the Manfuli shop, an upscale tailor in Beijing, sales are 60 percent higher than last year, and an unprecedented number of men are purchasing traditional Chinese jackets.
If Jiang Zemin will wear something, then everybody will wear
it, said WU Mengfan, 24, the shop's manager, whose family has been
in the trade for many years.
In a country where people wore little but blue and green for thirty
years (1949-79), then began to embrace Western fads blindly in the
1980s and 1990s, Wu said, the return to clothes from the Chinese
They want to wear something that makes them a little bit different
from everyone else, he said.
They're usually upper-middle class
-- you know, white-collar workers.
The trend is resuscitating one of China's money-losing industries. Like many of China's traditional crafts, including tea and rice wine production, the silk business has lost out over the past two decades as Chinese rejected their own cultural history and embraced the West.
Now we realize that we can be cool and be ourselves at the same
time, said Wang, switching to Chinese.
Look at me, he said,
pointing to his clothes and his Coach briefcase bag.
I'm a mix of
East and West.
The recent trend has been like
a pancake from heaven for
China's weakened silk industry, the Beijing Evening News said
Silk industry executives in Hangzhou, the southern Zhejiang city that
is the center of China's silk industry, noted that at the beginning of
2001, dozens of silk firms were ready to shut down. Now at the
Hangzhou Xin An Silk Factory, hundreds spinning machines are running
we still can't fulfill the market's demand, said
a factory spokesman.
But the hard times are not over for the silk spinners. A recent survey of more than 350 state-owned silk enterprises found that they lost an estimated $79 million in 2000.
China's state-run media have devoted extensive coverage about the fashion trend, transforming it into another sign that everybody likes China's government.
China's political situation is stable, its economy is soaring and
the self-confidence of our race is on the rise, the Liberation
Daily said, explaining the trend.
Such assertions made Wang the Beijing businessman laugh.
These guys are goofy, he said.
They still insist on making
this a political thing. Because I like this gold outfit, it makes me a
nationalist. I got a Hugo Boss suit at home that I love just as
much. Politics? Sorry. This is about fashion. And the girls love
In downtown Beijing, Yue Naiqin, the manager of another store, said she hope President Bush would again wear traditional Chinese clothes when he returns to Beijing later in February.
Traditional things are our glory, she said.
I hope you print
that. (Laurel Mittenthal)