Over the weekend, Phillip Lim, in celebration of his label’s fifth anniversary, hosted a fashion show on Beijing’s Forbidden City wall. Models, all of whom were Asian, walked the runway wearing creations from the Chinese-American designer’s spring 2011 men’s and women’s collections, along with five looks created exclusively for the show that were inspired by the country’s iconic Qi pao, or cheongsam. Similar inspirations made quite a statement on Louis Vuitton’s spring 2011 runway, though it feels too soon to call it a trend.
Lim joins the growing list of designers who have shown in China: In 2007, Karl Lagerfeld used the Great Wall as a backdrop to a spectacular show of Fendi’s spring collection, returning to the country last year to show his Shanghai-inspired pre-fall 2010 collection in Shanghai on the Huangpu River. John Galliano also took a trip to that river for his 2010 Dior resort show. And who can forget when Tyra Banks dragged her clan over there to film America’s Next Top Model contestants dressing up like warriors and being sexy while doing it? (In the Forbidden City — heavens!)
While Karl Lagerfeld admitted that the clothes in his “Paris-Shanghai Métiers d’Art Collection” were “about the idea of China, not the reality,” and Marc Jacobs’s spring 2011 Louis Vuitton show was a pretty straightforward interpretation of traditional Chinese dress, Phillip Lim is taking a somewhat less literal approach to signifying his interest in the region. “China is growing so fast. There is a crazy appetite for luxury, but at the same time, there is also an appetite for what’s new, what’s next,” he said. Though the new looks Lim created for his fifth-anniversary show incorporated some traditional elements, like mandarin collars, they weren’t as literal as, say, Chanel’s lacquered rice paddy hats from the Paris-Shanghai show. Lim’s approach is likely to be more appealing to Chinese consumers, who tend to shy away from designs that scream “China Girl.”
Plus, all of the models in Phillip Lim’s show were Asian, which is a rare thing for any major fashion show. Lim cast top girls like Du Juan, Liu Wen, and Emma Pei, instead of putting hotties like Baptiste Giabiconi and Freja Beha in yellow face, like, ahem, Lagerfeld. See shots from the show, including the five new looks, in the slideshow.