Thursday, October 29, 2009

Redesign future in fashion

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Redesign future in fashion
Russian instructor Elena Rylleva (center) teaches
sewing in Raffles Design Institute in Beijing.

Beijing is ready to add a new definition to China's evolving fashion industry: bold.

"The next generation? Bold. Definitely," said Anthony Bednall, academic director at Raffles Design Institute in Beijing.

Bold was a good definition for the designs his students recently displayed at an institute workshop as they readied their hand-made apparel for a China Fashion Week show on Nov 9 in Beijing's eclectic 798 arts district.

From rich black fabrics to bright colors, their work was sophisticated or whimsical, original and definitely runway ready.

"Compared to Europe, we still have a long way to go. But China's fashion industry has developed quite fast," said Serena Sun, 22, of Beijing, as she pieced together fabrics at the city's first independent fashion school.

Sun and others credited the school, part of a Singapore-based chain of Asia-Pacific design institutes under the same name, for their confidence about the future of Beijing's presence in the fashion world.

"I think China is very similar to where Japan was in the early 1980s. In 10 or 15 years, some of our local designers will be acknowledged in Paris, London, New York. It happened with Japanese designers," Bednall said.

"Good design is good design. It doesn't matter where it comes from."

Redesign future in fashion

Bednall, from England, said part of the future of China's fashion scene would involve instilling more independence and confidence in students. He believes they were taught to be more passive than their counterparts in elementary and secondary school systems in other countries.

"In China, they're not very proactive in their early education. We try to make them more proactive. What we're trying to do here is instill a sense of confidence in the decisions that the designers will make for themselves," he said.

Federic Wong Yoon Sin, the institute's fashion design program director, said today's Internet-savvy students have the advantage of more access to information from the outside world and a greater diversity of clothing in modern stores not enjoyed by past generations.

"These young people are not restricted by anything. We want our students to use the freedom of all the information now available to find a venue for their own designs," Wong said.

"It's about doing the research and the development, and being able to express themselves through the process."

In the 12 years the institute has operated in Beijing, the efforts are reaping results. Among the former graduates is Li Ying, now a freelance designer with an international roster of clients in fashion, TV and film.

Graduate Alicia Lee's trendy Willow Willow brand of ready-to-wear and couture is available at her Beijing boutique Noise.

This year, London's prestigious Saint Martins College of Art and Design accepted five of their graduates.

"It's unheard of, five students from the same class, the same school. We're very proud of them," Wong said.

"We're seeing our people returning after studying abroad. We see more boutiques in Beijing. They are starting to show themselves. The younger generation will really push the boundaries of design in China. It's exciting for us to be here," he said.

The international roster of instructors at Raffles Design Institute in Beijing is intentional, Wong said, describing it as a way to expose students to talented professionals from outside China.

"Instead of going to Paris, they can study here because they're getting ideas from around the world," said Catalina Calin, an instructor originally from Romania. "The students have a lot of courage to do new things, original things."

Sandhya Srinivasan, from India, said the results of "getting design input from everyone, from everywhere" has won accolades from fashion schools abroad, impressed by the institute's graduates who pursue advanced degrees.

"Fashion-wise, we're evolving. These students have a very individual style," Srinivasan said.

Elena Rylleva, a sewing class instructor originally from Russia, said today's students also are embracing the internationally fashionable trend of using environmentally friendly fabrics.

"They're concentrating more on sustainable design. They're using recycled materials," Rylleva said.

Student Michelle Teng, 20, of Beijing, said China's fashion ideas are different from other countries. "The Chinese, we have our own style," Teng said.

Student Lorraine Mei, 19, of Chongqing, is among students eager to make Beijing a future hub for world-class fashion. "I will try to learn more, go abroad, and come back to China to work," Mei said.

Gina Sun, 26, of Beijing, is already on her way. After graduating from the institute in July, she next plans to pursue a master's degree in London. She's considering returning to open a boutique after she completes her advanced training, she said.

"It's happening more in China. Before, people would try to buy the big name fashion labels. Now they're more accepting of local designers," she said. "I think more designers are going to come back to China. I'm confident about the future."

taken from : China Daily

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