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SF Fashion Week

blanc de chine - chinese chic

Blanc de Chine began in 1986 as a concept workshop in Hong Kong. The idea was to bring together eight principles with three classic Chinese garments. The guiding principles were simplicity, sensuality, purity, functionality, comfort, harmony, subtlety and serenity. The three garments were the women's Qipao, the man's Zhongshan suit and the Dudou undergarment for men, women and children of all ages.

The Qipao was the dress worn by the aristocratic Manchurian women of the Manchu or Qing Dynasty. At the time it was a two-piece combination of a short vest and long tunic robe. The majority Han or Chinese women were not permitted to wear this type of clothing. After the 1911 Republican Revolution the Chinese women adopted this type of clothing as an indication of Chinese independence as well as the movement for modernization. Over time in the 1920's the Qipao evolved into a one-piece garment very beautiful and daring for its time as it revealed the silhouette of a woman’s figure.


From 1925 to the early 1940’s, the Qipao became increasingly tight fitted. The Qipao was very rarely worn by women in rural areas. Laboring in the fields made wearing the Qipao impractical. During the late 1940's till 1960, however, the Qipao journeyed throughout the war and revolution. Its usage declined significantly. In the 1940's, the silhouette loosened, had less detailing, sleeves were capped and shorter as war shortages in materials took hold. With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, women wore the Mao jacket along with men as part of the proletarian, egalitarian ethos.

The Qipao collection keeps the silhouette of the 1920's but is updated with a looser fit. The collar band, the "tou jin", which traditionally fastens diagonally down the front right side to the waist, is transformed into pullover, non-open cut version. Asymmetric, more versatile designs were achieved after the advent of dry cleaning because Chinese tailors traditionally used rice paste to glue and iron on fabric biases in seams, collars, trimmings. Therefore, the Qipao had been washed sparingly and undergarments were worn with the Qipao. With modern technology in fusing fabrics and dry cleaning, the undergarment silhouette is now integrated as one Qipao piece.





Sun Yatsen, the Father of the Modern China was also named Sun Zhongshan in honor of his birthplace in Guangdong province in Southern China. He designed a suit to change the dress of the Chinese men which had seen little change for more than a hundred years. He wanted to get rid of the changpao, the long scholar’s robe worn by the men at the time and designed a simple suit that was modern but did not just copy the style worn in the West. The Zhongshan suit was adapted from the military and student uniforms worn in Japan whose modernization was a success story and a certain model for China.

The Zhongshan suit is full of symbolism which reflects the ideology and hopes Sun Yatsen had for modern China – the five buttons represented the union of the five races in China – the Hans, Manchus, Mongols, Tibetans and Hui, or Muslims. The pocket flaps are shaped like the brush pen rests – symbolizing that Sun’s revolution was based on philosophy and ideology, therefore enduring in its legacy…unlike the revolutions by peasants in China which were short-lived.

In 1949 Mao modified the Zhongshan style with the collar turned down. This Mao jacket was worn by everyone, a mass produced, loose fitting and severe, functional style that has thankfully largely disappeared in China.



In the collection this evening, the updating of design and manufacturing becomes a jacket with a more refined silhouette, no pockets for formal wear, in fine wools, heavy silks and velvet. This is in contrast to the Mao jackets which were primarily cotton, and Sun’s Zhongshan jacket which was made in linen.

The Dudou is a simple piece of fabric, not unlike an apron, to cover the person’s front. It is held by two strings which tie in the back and one is held around the neck. It is often depicted in Chinese erotic paintings. Its sensuality and versatility vary by the fabric used to make this garment.

The DuDou "signature" of one strap around the neck, one strap around the back, and a single piece of fabric in front covering the chest - these are elements in the design of the bra, the halter-top, the camisole, and the backless wrap top.


The traditional DuDou 4-angle silhouette is updated into shapes of 3-, 5-, 6-angled distillations. Another innovation is that of its cut where its 2 and 3-dimensional silhouette when wrapped around the body, this cut transforms into one flat piece when laid down.

The Dao collection comes in jersey, silk, ultra suede, velvet, leather silk. It comes in materials that are crushed, crinkled, pleated, and sequined. Different materials and texture allow the DuDou to scale across formal, casual and edgy chic.

The Men's DuDou has come a long way from being merely an undergarment worn under the scholar robes of men in China. Wrestlers in Mongolia today sport the DuDou as the official uniform for Mongolian wrestling competitions. They, however, reverse the DuDou with the single piece of cloth wrapping their back and the two DuDou straps cross their chest and waist in front.

The updated Men's DuDou in this collection come in black leather silk. Both are padded with cotton- one a vest, the other a waistcoat.


Vivianne and Camille, the elegant Blanc de Chine representatives I met in San Francisco, laughed when I told them that their black sequined gown looked like classic Geoffrey Beene. "I shouldn't say anything, it will date me," said Camille, looking very chic in a black silk jacket from the collection. With style and couture sensibility like this, Fashionlines predicts Blanc de Chine will soon be a household fashion name.

Blanc de Chine
673 Fifth Avenue
New York City
212 3088688

Shop 103
Beijing Kerry Centre Mall
86 10 8529 9450

201-203A Peddar Building
12 Peddar Street
Central Hong Kong
854 2524 7875

The Landmark
Central Hong Kong
(opening September 2006)


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