“Everyone wants to be in China now,” said 29-year-old Sara Villarreal. Based on the crowd present at Diane Von Furstetenberg’s Red Ball event in Shanghai on March 31, Villarreal is right.
The event, hosted by the DVF label, was held at the studio of Zhang Huan, one of China’s leading artists. From the outside, the studio looks like an abandoned warehouse; inside, the décor was startlingly sumptuous, decorated in giant Buddhas and delicate paper lanterns. Attendants in Venetian masks waved red laser pointers for a dynamic design. The central event of the evening was a performance by top Chinese choreographer and dancer Jin Xing.
In total, 500 guests filled the studio, in what Diane von Furstenberg referred to as “a celebration of East and West.” Von Furstenberg noted that China has always been a point of interest for her: “When I was a little girl I always dreamed about China… today is a celebration of the many people who can have dreams and make them happen.”
Some of those dreamers include Zhang Huan, the artist who offered space for the event and who introduced Von Furstenberg to many of the Red Ball’s guests. Another is Sara Villarreal. Villarreal is an American entrepreneur who, in October 2009, opened a luxury boutique in Shanghai. Despite criticism that she moved too early into the Chinese market, Villarreal thinks her timing was perfect. “Things have really picked up recently; the timing as actually just right,” Villarreal said.
A bigger dream for Von Furstenberg, and for designers in China and the U.S., is to open channels between designers in the two countries. Others in the fashion industry are on board with this agenda: after Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s recent visit to China, the Vogue Fashion Fund plans to offer support and resources to rising Chinese designers. Christian Louboutin’s luxury-shoe brand plans to open its first outlet in China this year, with shoes designed specifically for the slightly smaller, slightly wider feet of Asian women.
Villarreal suggests an answer to why these brands are moving Eastward.
“Many realized that focusing on the Western market was a limited view of the world. Due to the recent financial crisis, they felt they needed to look outward.”