If US children are reared on a diet of softball, rough and tumble in the park and summer camp, then two Chinese designers offered New York Fashion Week a slightly different vision of childhood.
Jia Liu and Xinyin Xu are two of the rapidly increasing number of Chinese designers taking the US cultural capital’s bi-annual style fest by storm as creative American talent decamps to Europe.
They also specialize in what they call parent-child fashion: complimentary outfits for moms and daughters, dads and sons. So that if mom dresses up for a party, her mini-me daughter can do the same.
Xu’s label Vicky Zhang — inspired by and named after her four-year-old daughter — offered white dropped-shoulder dresses with ruffles, princess gowns with crinolines and trains skimming the floor, all in delicate white, the palest of yellows, baby blue or soft mint.
For mothers with a few hundred dollars to drop on a child’s outfit, it was a chance to indulge a daughter’s love of a dress-up fantasy dress — and there were plenty of oohs and aahs from captivated fashionistas.
Not to be left out, boys were offered silk knickerbocker suits in forest green, starched white shirts with sequin embellishment, or a Chinese-style boys suit with skirt overlay and cape in pale yellow.
“I hope that this collection makes every kid very elegant and do very well,” Xu told AFP, speaking through a translator, batting aside any suggestion that they were not the right clothes for a child.
“I want my daughter to be very well composed and whenever she wears the beautiful dresses she always pays attention,” she said.
The inspiration, fittingly enough, was the Tang dynasty, a time when China was considered the most prosperous country in the world.
Xu said her children’s outfits cost 1,000 to 2,000 yen (US$150 to US$300) — a relative bargain compared to some of the eye-watering clothes on display at Fashion Week.
“I want everybody to be able to afford it,” she explained.
Liu’s collection, inspired by emojis, was a lot quirkier, cartoon-style words printed on outfits, hoodies and black jeans for boys and men; delicate pink and white for mothers and daughters
The increased Chinese presence in New York underscore their growing business clout at home, their confidence in flexing their talent in the West and growing sales in the United States.
Shanghai-based designer Wang Tao, whose label Taoray Wang is popular with US first daughter Tiffany Trump, said Chinese designers like coming to New York because it is an international business platform.
“China’s economy is growing and booming, and a lot of designers want to show their clothes here,” she told AFP. “That’s something also fresh for New York Fashion Week.”
For those like Liu and Xu who are already successful at home, drumming up business in the United States is the natural next step.
It is Liu’s second time in New York, but the French-trained designer admits she is also looking at possibly putting on a show in Paris next season.
“New York Fashion Week is very commercial,” she says, also speaking through a translator. “I think there are two types of fashion week.
“Paris is more high fashion,” she said, while New York “is more like street fashion and more commercial based.”
Young designer Snow Xue Gao, who was inspired by the Beijing opera and dreams of one day dressing Cate Blanchett, held her first solo show — a presentation in an East village gallery.
The New York-based designer too saw the departure of a talent such as Rodarte and Altuzarra to Paris as a chance for others to shine.
But if China is a source of inspiration, she says clients in the West primarily want beautiful clothes and care less about their provenance.
“They buy it because it fits, looks good and they like the print,” she told AFP. “I don’t think now customers are like ‘I really love Asian culture and I want to buy this dress.’”