Close-Up. The Details Are In The Dress : Minority Musings

No mat­ter where you turn those Bardot-lined peep­ers, fash­ion design­ers, shops and chains around the globe have long been tak­ing a leaf out of the extens­ive fash­ion pages owned by China’s eth­nic minor­it­ies.  


All political affirmations and connotations aside, China’s various traditional minority dresscodes have had an extensive influence on clothing hangers nationwide.

All polit­ic­al affirm­a­tions and con­nota­tions aside (we shall not be enga­ging ourselves in any “he said, she said” snau­fus today and prefer to keep things fash­ion­ably chaste), China’s vari­ous tra­di­tion­al minor­ity dresscodes have had an extens­ive influ­ence on cloth­ing hangers nation­wide, com­pris­ing the full scale from hard-to-handle fab­rics to exuber­ant embroid­ery to fant­ast­ic­al ear­rings. Leav­ing behind the Han major­ity this time (noth­ing per­son­al), I would hereby like to put a quick white-hot spot­light on some par­tic­u­lar Tem­per favor­ites. One might dis­agree, given the some­times bor­der­line over­bear­ing accessor­ies are not always meant for the faint­hearted sleek style sense lov­ers, but oh well… A little edge nev­er hurt any­one.

Click to view slideshow.

Uyghur to Miao

Loc­ated in China’s utmost west­ern region, Xinji­ang Province (新疆省) with its greenscreen grass­lands, icy blue moun­tain lakes, wide-stretch­ing deserts and rap­idly devel­op­ing large cit­ies (trust me, the view from a top floor in its cap­it­al of Urum­qi gets more impress­ive by the year), har­bors 47 minor­ity groups. The largest one ? The Turkic Uyghur, who out­do any­one when it comes to pro­cessing their artis­an­al silk and leather goods. With the ancient Silk Road run­ning through their veins, their Xinji­ang home-base formed a melt­ing pot of Greek, Roman, Indi­an and Islam cul­ture, lead­ing to a wide cul­tur­al diversity that found its way into the loc­al ward­robes.

The most dis­tinct­ive Uyghur fea­ture would have to be the daily-worn cap, refer­ring to age, pos­i­tion occu­pa­tion and eth­nic ori­gin. I myself pos­sess a weak­ness for the large hand­woven silk and kashmere scarfs emblazoned with wildly col­or­ful flowery motives pro­duced in the area. Yet, should you prefer a mod­ern-day twist on tra­di­tion ; take a nod from Lio He’s Zéphyr brand, design­ing a wide selec­tion of pure silk scarves fea­tur­ing graph­ic prints, from dainty to dash­ing.

From graph­ic prints, it’s only a small leap to embroid­ery, bro­cades and batik, yet more char­ac­ter­ist­ics found across the tra­di­tion-pre­scribed cloth­ing. Espe­cially renowned for their sow­ing skills are the Miao, loc­ated in China’s south­west­ern Guizhou Province (we’re boun­cing from place to province, as usu­al). Often depict­ing the nat­ur­al land­scape sur­round­ing them, their most com­monly depic­ted motives include flowers, birds and oth­er fauna. From aprons to dresses to baby car­ri­ers to shoes and tower­ing head­wear, the Miao pro­cessing tech­niques are the primi (primae?) inter pares, with col­ors often being on the more earthy-honed side. On the brighter side of the col­or pal­lette, we might find the Yun­nan Province motives ; minor detail.

Should you be on the lookout for a more con­tem­por­ary twist on these “knits”; then lit­er­ally embrace your body with the Pil­low­book linger­ie brand. Founder and design­er Irene Lu often incor­por­ates intric­ate embroid­ery in her under­gar­ments. Just a little tip for the sau­ci­er snook­ums out there.

These craftsmen know their moulding and carving, often inlaying the basic pieces with precious stones, including agate, jasper and turquoise.

Silk to Silver

Speak­ing of Yun­nan Province (the bright home to 25 minor­ity groups)… As we swiftly sweep through China’s south­ern areas, we stumble upon another firm favor­ite of mine : The sil­ver gems. Cap adorn­ments, XL drop ear­rings or broches and brace­lets ; the entire shiny she­bang is present. With the location’s earli­est sil­ver accessor­ies dat­ing back to the Song Dyn­asty (907−1272), these crafts­men know their mould­ing and carving, often inlay­ing the basic pieces with pre­cious stones, includ­ing agate, jasper and tur­quoise.

Click to view slideshow.


Temp­ted to get your slinky paws on any of the afore­men­tioned ? Just take a look at Aimotown’s down­stairs area (yes, that Yun­nan place inside Beijing’s No.44, Fangjia Hutong). Or when you enter Beijing’s gen­er­al tour­ist-trap Nan­luoguxi­ang from Gulou East, be care­ful not to simply pass by a Lil­li­pu­tian (must. use. word) shop on your left hand. Thus risk­ing to pass up on some impor­ted tra­di­tion­al treas­ures. Why the GPS descrip­tion ? ‘Cause the shop has no name ; it just adds to the undefin­able mys­tique, let’s say.

Sil­ver puts the crown on the boun­ti­ful (yet back-to-very-basic here) looks  as spor­ted by China’s assor­ted indi­gen­ous pop­u­la­tions.


Close-Up. The Details Are In The Dress:  Minority Musings
Close-Up. The Details Are In The Dress : Minor­ity Mus­ings
Ten Bouyei women and their looms took center stage at China Fash­ion Week. Copyright@CGTN Pho­to


Fashion brand Eve de Cina had put together the collection and said it was designed to transcend space and time and bridge cultures.

Bringing The Bouyei To Beijing

CGTN Report­er Zhang Ruijun in May 2017 brought us the story, and a prime example to illus­trate the power of “the little people”, of the unique Bouyei embroid­ery walk­ing the Beijing Fash­ion Week cat­walks :

“China Fash­ion Week has brought the unique embroid­ery of an eth­nic minor­ity from the remote south of the coun­try to the world’s fash­ionistas. When Fash­ion Week kicked off, 10 looms took center stage, oper­ated by 10 Bouyei women who had traveled to Beijing from Qianxi county, Guizhou Province. The Bouyei women worked their magic with the loom while mod­els strut­ted down the cat­walk wear­ing tra­di­tion­al Bouyei attire.
Fash­ion brand Eve de Cina had put togeth­er the col­lec­tion and said it was designed to tran­scend space and time and bridge cul­tures. Xia Hua, Eve de Cina’s founder, said the embroid­ery and weav­ing tech­nique of the Bouyei people were “so fas­cin­at­ing.”


Close-Up. The Details Are In The Dress:  Minority Musings
Close-Up. The Details Are In The Dress : Minor­ity Mus­ings
42 out­fits, all hand­made by Bouyei artis­ans. Copyright@CGTN Pho­to

Her group wants to exhib­it this art to a wider audi­ence, not just cater­ing to the Chinese, but to for­eign­ers as well.  The 42 out­fits fea­tured on the run­way show were all hand­made by Bouyei embroid­ery artis­ans. Xu’s team searched through the ham­lets of Qianxi to find the few women who know this elab­or­ate craft. Their work for Eve de Cina has brought them poten­tial prosper­ity, espe­cially now that the embroid­ery has been show­cased on an inter­na­tion­al stage.”


With an array of 56 eth­nic groups cov­er­ing the vast main­land of China – the largest of which is the Han group with approx­im­ately 1.2 bil­lion des­cend­ants (say, 92 per­cent of the over­all pop­u­la­tion) — one can infuse any out­fit with a mad minor­ity bump in a straight stitch second. Their dif­fer­ent dec­or­a­tions are only one styl­ing aspect of what sets the minor­ity groups apart from one another ; their artis­an­al ways of pro­duc­tion — from weav­ing to dye­ing —  show­case a respect for Mother Earth and binds them togeth­er into one power­ful mod­ern-day fash­ion inspir­a­tion. The details in the dif­fer­ent eth­nic dress make all of het above­men­tioned truly minors play­ing in the majors – the major ‘tude stakes, that is.







Images : Copyright@China Culture and CGTN
Copyright©2017 Temper Magazine All Rights Reserved


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