The Chinese, according to Zou Yitian, are thirsty.
Zou is the producer of China’s design-based reality show Creative Sky, a program similar to the American Project Runway. And with ten million viewers tuning in to the second season’s finale, Creative Sky must be doing something right.
That “something” is showcasing Chinese creativity—and it’s just what Zou thinks the people of China are thirsting for.
“Creativity, as applied to an industry, is a relatively new concept in China, and this is what the show is about, hence the interest it is receiving,” Zou said, in an interview with China Daily.
Creative Sky not only encourages creativity, but rewards it richly. The top designer each season wins a full scholarship to Parsons The New School for Design, a New York City fashion program regarded as one of the best in the world.
In addition to a world-class prize, Zou’s program recruits world-class judges for the reality competition. Derek Lam, a Chinese-American fashion designer, is among Creative Sky’s high-profile judges. Another of the program’s judges is Simon Collins, dean of the Parsons school of fashion. Collins joined the judging panel after being impressed by the work of local Chinese designers.
“I was amazed at the craftsmanship and their desire to create something different,” Collins said. However, he notes, “There’s a certain reluctance to stand out in Chinese education and among young Chinese designers.”
But with the help of programs like Creative Sky and exposure to global culture, young Chinese designers are overcoming that reluctance.
“There are plenty of very creative and artistic individuals in China,” says Zou. “The issue is more in the lack of exposure and awareness. We shouldn’t forget that not so long ago, everyone in China was wearing the same grey suit. But things are changing extremely rapidly today.”
That changing attitude is reflected in Creative Sky’s first-season winner, 29-year-old Zhao Qianyan, who is now studying, thanks to the Creative Sky scholarship, at Parsons.
“I think there’s a revolution going on in fashion,” Zhao says. “I believe I am different. I’m simply myself.”
That sense of self-awareness is what sets Zhao apart—and it is a sense that other young designers are also entering into as they prove that East can be just as creative as the West.