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East Meets West, A Future Without Borders

Vantage Editor 2016-01-10 15:52

Han Feng

Anthony’s version of Madame Butterfly may be the most famous in recent years. Since it opened in September 2005 in London, the opera received much praise about the script, stage setting and the performance. But also, the focus from the media on Han Feng’s contribution to this opera points to her success. 

Arriving in the U. S. in 1985, Han Feng’s career started with a scarf designed by her, after having worked in a cloth company for several years. The scarf made of the patchwork cloth collected from the company happened to capture the attention of a salesperson in a shopping mall, whose interest eventually gave Han Feng a chance to design a shirt for the mall’s manager. Surprisingly, the manager chose to buy both the pieces, which were merely meant as samples, showing an immediate appreciation of her talent. Four years later her independent career started when she established her own brand, setting it on the runway. 


Generally, once there focus, there are results. Things happen like links on a chain and this applied to Han Feng’s story. Her meeting with Anthony was through his wife whose friend was already a customer of Han Feng’s. She did not know the couple, and Anthony merely ordered a suit. But for the story of her work in Madame Butterfly this was the seed. Very pleased with her work, Anthony wore the Han Feng’s design on various occasions including at the Academy Awards. And three years later, a telephone call from Anthony’s assistant started the story. Han Feng reminisced that it was after a short discussion that the invitation was set. Afterwards he managed a meeting between Han Feng and the director of the theatre where the opera’s first performance would be. However, not until two years later, maybe because of insufficient knowledge of the Chinese fashion designer by Western society, did Han Feng as costume designer get final acceptance through Anthony and the project of Madame Butterlfy. 


The costume design started in March 2005, but it did not go as easily as it may be thought. The first batch of her costumes did not go down well with the crew. However, Anthony took the blame, explaining that they should have communicated with Han Feng more closely instead of leaving her alone to do the work, especially since she had informed them that it was her first time working on opera costumes. Anthony gave her one week to rest and discussed with her the artistic direction of the opera. Following that, Han Feng began to make changes to the costumes with her assistant’s help researching the history of World War II. It was a really tough time for Han Feng, she was also strapped for cash and the idea board was made from the cut-outs from fashion magazines, because she had nowhere to get the colour samples. However, all her efforts through this difficult time were rewarded in one sentence from Anthony when she carried her second, inspired works to him, “ You succeeded! You deserve a good rest!” 

The opera became a great hit when it opened in both London and then New York City. 

It seemed like a fairytale and even Han Feng herself did not know why Anthony risked inviting someone new to this kind of work. But Anthony’s words revealed the truth after the opera’s success, “I chose you because I wanted the world to witness your talent!” 


Now Han Feng has studios in both Shanghai and New York City. Her design style has received appreciation from Wendy Goodman the Art Director of L’Officiel, “ I was attracted to Han Feng’s design from the very first time. Apart from a couple of good pieces, young designers often don’t have a real sense of their own style, but Han Feng has delicate works in an independent style with her own stamp on it.” 

About Han Feng

It’s an extraordinary thing when a back-stage staff member (besides the director) is asked for their signature by fans of the Opera, but Han Feng is such a person. She, as the costume designer of the Opera Madame Butterfly directed by Anthony Minghella the British director, received requests from the fans for her signature. 

Leaf Xia 


She lives in a romantic world of her own where she reveals her soul using fashion designs as her language. “My grandfather influenced me when I was a kid so I like painting and calligraphy. In the summer and winter vacations during my high school life, I usually served as a volunteer in a poor area or AIDS villages and that’s why I tend to look for people emotions.” said Leaf. According to her, those experiencs led in some way to her career in fashion design. Days and nights of hard work made the present achievements come true. She once did not sleep for three nights working at school and almost had a nervous breakdown. The pressure, doubts about herself and the helpless isolation, did not overwhelm her, however, and instead motivated her. “With my mental endurance tested then, I grew up fast. I learnt to encourage and challenge myself without fearing failure and self-doubt. I kept in a good mood in order to do design,” said Leaf. Having located her studio in New York City, Leaf considers it a suitable place to be designing, in that the fashion industry is well developed there and the fast working pace there, motivates her. “People here can actually build their dreams and I was influenced by this” she said. When asked why it was New York City, she replied, referring to an experience at three years old,” I jumped from the third floor because I felt scared by the loneliness at home. Fortunately, I fell down in a soft place although I was in a coma for two weeks. Finally, I woke up but I wasn’t in good shape. Even the doctor was surprised by my recovery. You see, I have been a determined girl since childhood. I will do something once I decide to do it. Later I lived in several cities so I am also adaptive.” she said. The fast pace in New York City seems to suit her. She said,” The fashion industry in New York City is well developed and the work by young designers are easily accepted. Besides, New Yorkers are free and easy to do what they want to, without many restraints from what others think.” 


Leaf’s design features, a mixture of multiple textures and iconic colours. Seldom setting herself boundaries, she sometimes intentionally designs something subconsciously, she revealed. She loves to form new prints by combining the elements that she cuts from different magazines. For example, she cut a bread image and put it on a model’s hair as decoration, and cut a stool image and used it on a dress: she loves combining various elements together unexpectedly to dramatic effect. “The freedom to progress gives me abundant inspiration,” she said. While making clothes, she gathers different materials into new shapes, for example, sewing organza with thick wool materials, or mixing denim with plastic. 


“Each piece of cloth has its own life. But I as a designer can give them new life. In order to get the strong inspiration for the subconscious designs, I drink and start designing after I’m drunk and then check it when I’ve returned to myself.” she said. When doing design, there is the period of confusion making it hard; it is a period when others may easily influence you. But she chooses to follow her own heart to design. 

Now that more and more Chinese designers are appearing on the international stages of the fashion weeks, their works are being noticed and receiving positive comments from Western buyer-boutiques, magazines and the international awards. “Although personally I do not know much about the Chinese market, I have seen that more and more celebrities are beginning to wear the Chinese-designs for their clothes in movies, entertainment, TV programs, etc. The Chinese designs in boutiques, showrooms and fashion weeks are booming, so I think it is an optimistic environment.” she said. Her own motivation is simple. It is her passion. Despite of the pressure of doing her own brand and the problems associated with maintaining brand commercial integrity, she keeps herself well,“ I have good psychological endurance and think about things from an optimistic perspective. It was only one month between my graduating show and the London Fashion Week show. It came so fast that I need to reflect on it to improve my design in a clearly defined way.” 


About Leaf Xia 

Although not having been acknowledged very much in China, Leaf Xia has been spotted by the fashion media around the world in recent years. Working and living in New York City, she graduated from the Parsons Design Institute last year and is now a hot fashion designer in U.K. and U.S. Last year, her graduating work was exhibited in a Saks Fifth Avenue window display. Later she was named as one of Fashion Scout’s SS16 ‘Ones to Watch’ receiving a sponsored catwalk show and exhibition during London Fashion Week. 

Yiqing Yin 

Born in Beijing, Yiqing moved to Paris at the age of four and went to Australia at 14. She studied at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs and London College of Fashion. She said, it is her experience of living in various countries that made her interested in fashion design because, “I travelled a lot when young and lived in different environments. And through the years, a special emotional attachment grew in me for my clothes. For me, the costumes are my view of the world. They protect my identity and history.” she said. 


Her laid-back attitude, like most Parisians’, may have helped her attain achievements that others at her age do not have. Now she is a member of La Chambre Syndicale de la Couture and just recently resigned from being the creative director of Leonard, a French fashion house. Yiqing considers her achievements to be the result of her consistent introspection as well as, of course, luck. She regards “haute couture” as more about individual design for different customers than merely a chic and luxurious concept, that some people would expect. And this applies to her brand “Yiqing Yin”. “I think she who wears Yiqing Yin has certain inner contradictions. She is tall with her head in the clouds meanwhile standing firmly on the ground. She is an emotional dream catcher, modern Amazon, who desires to discover her own sparkle, she has desires that maybe sound a little different to others, but every step is guarded by an armour soft as the skin.” she stated. Apparently, it is not difficult to guess that the “She” refers to Yiqing Yin herself.

Yiqing Yin has her own perspective upon design. Given that many Chinese local designers have in mind the national mission, she however, thinks that one should not be confined to these ideals or to have to reflect his or her own country. “We, in some way, are influenced by multiple cultures. We define ourselves with various labels from the West to the East, or from ancient language to the latest technology. Thus, our inspirations may be from personal sources, such as personal feelings, education and emotions. Of course, these are my own opinions. My designs reflect my personal emotions and the way I perceive the world. We are witnessing an era which is a beautiful period where multiple languages, cultures and ways of thinking merge.” It may be a mood and perspective that quite a few designers are lacking.


She has an outstanding skill for design, doing her drafts, painting by hand instead of using computers. Her inspirations are rooted mostly in nature including animals, people and architecture. “My imagination and ideas vary as the texture of the cloth varies.” she personifies the cloth referring to it as “he”, “They have their own voice and language, according to which I decide how to design and cut them. And it is important to me that I am influenced by others around me, those whom I love and appreciate.”

Having mastered the traditional skills and priciples of Haute Couture, Yin defined new lines of women’s wear using her own ideas. With her focus on the effect of mixed textures and a fluidity that appears from the cut, she deals with the details instinctively and uses theories from sculpture. She smiled, “I do design emotionally and it is like a communication between my body and the cloth. I try to make them feminine, yet I also have contradictions in my works, between tender and solid, revealing and hidden, sexy and naïve.” Be it forming the outlines with the original cloth or to adjust the sewing inch by inch, the details of the clothes are like the notes that form a melody. According to her, you need to remain sensitive to things around you to be an outstanding designer. “If you want to be a fashion designer: you must have an interest in people; you need to be brave to resist compromising; you need always to challenge what you have known; you’d better never be complacent; and you need to innovate,” she said. She also suggested designers embrace “unexpectedness”, “Because that is the most magical thing in creativity.” she added. 


About Yiqing Yin 

She was the figure skating champion in Paris at the age of 10; a black belt in karate at 15; had her art work art collected by Manley Museum Sydney at 17: she is Yiqing Yin, a fashion designer. This lady was only 29 years old when she won the Creative Awards of Paris in 2009, she released her very first collection in the Haute Couture Week Spring/Summer 2012, and is considered equal to Iris Van Herpen the successor of the talented Alexander McQueen. 

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