Monday, May 23, 2011

Trend : Shanghai Ladies

Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles in The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
 The charms of the past would never stop seducing the Fashion world. Thanks to Joan Harris, the 60s silhouettes are back, with their curves and their vitally kitsch dresses, hairdos and stilettos. Since then, the image fashion guru's want for the 21st century's women is quite arguable. While some are thinking that androginity is the future for human being, many people are trying to reassert the right to an assumed feminity. For these women, the post WWII's wardrobe is what suits them the best. Actually, it is genuinely elegant, cute and feminine. But Past has got its negative points too, and we did a long way since then, especially in term of social and sexual progress. Living in our modern world with pencil skirts and corsets is only appealing in the paper ... So, we need to search another model for our thrist of classic feminity.
Gene Tierney in The Shanghai Gesture (1941)
 I don't know what Marc Jacob had in mind when he launched the Summer collection of Louis Vuitton, but he certainly has felt that the fashion's wind was now blowing from the east. But, fortunately, the trend avoided the trap of the geishas' aestheticism and rather chose a vision of the woman which was more free. On the bounce of the American designer, the fashion world is heading to a city which is, in our westerner's mind, a synonymous with exoticism, sensuality and luxury : Shanghai. But the Shanghai which inspires Industry this Fall is the Shanghai of the classic black and white movies of the 40s. Indeed, the aestheticism chosen is very old-world, nearly cliché, with a lot of red silk, dark floral patterns and jazzy influences.
Gene Tierney
 The muses I suggest are American actresses Rita Hayworth and Gene Tierney. They have both played in movies with Shanghai in the title, the first one in The Lady from Shanghai (the presence of the Chinese city here was just a way to add mystery to her character) and the second one in The Chinese Gesture. If you are familiar with this one, you would agree that, first, Gene should certainly have deserved more recognition, and secondly, that her costumes, created by her husband and famous American designer Oleg Cassini, were not particularly chinese ... So, why emphasizing them in an article on Shanghai's fashion ? Because they embody the spirit of this Fall Chinese's influence. It's totally out of the question to bring back the traditional Chinese dresses. Mainly because Industry is looking for Chinese buyers, who want novelty, but at the same time, something that would reassure them  ... So, what they want is to instill the preciosity and the discreet eroticism of Asia's biggest country into contemporary and western garments.
Saffron Knight AW2011 collection
 This way, they offer us exoticism within our reach and to Chinese buyers, a taste of classic Hollywood which would fit their own codes. Clever, isn't it ?
The new Shanghai ladies are Amazons, they are lounge's warriors, with an independence and an intelligence similar (if not superior) to men, with seduction as their secret weapon. They are both sensible, like Elsa in The Lady from Shanghai and Poppy in The Shanghai Gesture, but terribly unreachable and almost living godesses. Many designers and brands have already played with those codes in their Fall collection. The one of Jamaican-British designer Saffron Knight is particularly accomplished. Very far from her usual style, this collection marry tradition and a cheeky modernity with success. The Dragon-lady is not dead ...
Topshop header for its collection 'Shanghai'
 The Shanghai collection from Topshop is less convincing. It's more difficult to recognize the Chinese influences in the offered garments, which are sometimes more Japanese than Chinese ... Looks like geography and fashion are still not studied in the same schools ... But some pieces remain in the spirit we've talked about. And I guess that we will see more interesting stuff in the next months ...
My personal pick would be a dress from the Fall catalogue of French online retailer 3Suisses, which offers a sexy silk dress (avaible in Chinese-like print or trendy colours) for only 29,90 euros (which is £25,90 and almost $42). This dress is genuinely in the mood of those classic 40s movies, full of exoticism and of strong heroines. The perfect answer to the desperate housewives of last year. Plus, there is travel with your past ...
3Suisses dress 29,90 euros, avaible in many European and foreign countries

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