Chinese designer Laurence Xu is making waves in the fashion world with his innovative style: an elegant confluence of old and new, traditional and trendy.
Among Xu’s more famous creations is Chinese actress Fan Bingbing’s exquisite “dragon robe,” featuring traditional Chinese dragons and crashing waves in brilliant yellow. The dress’s historical inspiration reflects its splendor: in ancient China, only emperors were allowed to wear clothing with this pattern and color scheme.
Another design, “withered vine and old tree,” is a dark brown evening gown that evokes the poetry of Ma Zhiyuan, who lived during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Made with rough and unconventional materials, including leather and scraps of fabric, the dress at once resembles a dead tree and flatteringly accentuates its wearer’s curves.
“I am fascinated with Chinese culture,” Xu said in an interview with China Daily. “When I read an ancient Chinese poem or look at some ink-and-wash Chinese paintings, I wonder if they could be trendy. They are breathtakingly beautiful.”
The deep sense of national identity in Xu’s creations has garnered praise from clients and critics alike. Fan Bingbing says she wears his creations “to tell the world: I am not from South Korea, nor Japan. I am an actress from China.” Fashion critic Ao Ran has also lauded Xu for his “understanding, experience and knowledge” in modernizing “traditional Chinese elements.”
Active since 1993, Xu now runs an independent label with a small design team. Although there is no sales or marketing department to speak of, his clientele is considerable and, according to Xu, composed of people who are “extremely rich or come from good backgrounds.”
Though his work is grounded in his home country, Xu’s designs are beginning to receive international attention. He is one of the first Chinese designers to make it to the Paris Fashion Week Haute Couture, a show which he spent two years preparing. The designs, which were also displayed at Beijing’s Emperor Hotel in January, incorporate elegant tropes of Chinese art, such as calligraphy and peony blossoms.
Despite his growing fame, however, Xu remains modest about his work.
“I wish to stay behind the scenes. The most beautiful things, eventually, are not designers, but garments themselves.”
image credit: allan albani