The New China Chic at the Kennedy Center

The New China Chic exhibit at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Fashion exhibits offer an advantage that the runway shows cannot: the ability to truly study and appreciate the designs of budding talents up close and personal.  The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. is the venue where fashion buffs can visit the exhibit, 'The New China Chic,' a showcase of Asian and Asian-American designers whose work retains Chinese cultural ties.  These designers, some experienced and others newer in the game, are making a big splash.  The exhibit, on display from October 4-16, 2005 in the Terrace Gallery, is one of the anticipated features of the Kennedy Center's Festival of China in October.

This cheongsam by Zang Toi has intricate beaded designs - Anna Sui's delicate flowered creations make pants pretty

The East merges with the West in the designs of Zang Toi, Barney Cheng, John Rocha, Yeohlee Teng, the house of Blanc de Chine, Peter Som, Vera Wang, Derek Lam, Vivienne Tam, Jeffrey Chow, Amy Chan, Andrew GN, Anna Sui, and Shanghai Tang.  Between two and four pieces per designer transformed white faceless mannequins into works of art. In addition, intricately exquisite jewelry from Cartier, Kai-Yin Lo, and Christian Tse supplement the clothing.

These coats can also be seen at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C.

Zang Toi, born in Malaysia, is known for chinoiserie gowns in bright colors such as pink and red.  The gowns, embroidered with delicate flowers and butterflies, can transform a woman into a Chinese garden.  Appropriate for a daytime benefit or a nighttime soiree, these eye-catching designs are sure to endure in the fashion canon.  Toi's silk-velvet cheongsams are visual masterpieces of beading.  John Rocha from Hong Kong combines American cable-knit sweater designs with flowing kimono-style skirts.  Yeohlee Teng, also born in Malaysia, utilizes the ancient Chinese aesthetic in his architectural designs.  Robes with rectangular sleeves and triangle cut necks show his deference for geometric, simple shapes. 

Vera Wang's billowing wedding gown makes any bride the belle of the ball - Vivienne Tam's trench coat sparkles with Budha ornaments

Blanc de Chine's qipao dress is reminiscent of Lucy Liu's costumes in Kill Bill Vol. 1.  The white silk knee-length dress has linen clasps on the shoulder and a bias-cut skirt that flirts with the eye.  Vera Wang is a strong presence at the exhibit with four gowns.  Her empire waisted strapless wedding gown is truly breathtaking' all silk and taffeta for the billowing skirt, and midnight blue velvet for the bow accenting the waist. 

Andrew GN's silk and linen coats prove that winter doesn't have to be drab

Vivienne Tam prepared us for winter with her linen trench coat lined with silver Buddha ornaments.  And Jeffrey Chow's delightful graphics and patterns on skirts, blouses, and pants could rival the most detailed kimono.  Amy Chan created a 'lantern pouch' (literally shaped like a lantern with tassles hanging from the bottom) which could usurp the hobo bag as the most popular purse this season.  The bag is awash in beautiful reds, browns, and greens with a golden strap.  Andrew GN from Singapore never ceases to amaze with his flowered and embroidered silk-linen coats.  Anna Sui's linen and crepe pants under Asian-inspired dresses are a beautiful take on the leggings-and-dress style that is currently all the rage.  Perhaps the most detailed dress is Shanghai Tang's mini-dress filled with tiny Chinese calligraphy.

Derek Lam's chantilly lace dress takes demure to a new level - White flowers look brilliant on a black background in this Zang Toi design

And the diamond-encrusted jewelry from Cartier paid homage to Chinese calligraphy and the pagoda design.  Necklaces with delicate pendants and large jade rings dominated the display.  Kai-Yin Lo from Hong Kong created large beaded jade necklaces that emphasize a woman's delicate neck. 

Zang Toi's intricately beaded tiger and dragon gown makes black silk more daring

Although the New China Chic exhibit ends its stay at the Kennedy Center October 16th, the Textile Museum in Washington D.C. has cheongsams on display donated from the People's Republic of China.  The East is alive and well in the fashion world, and the Asian-American designers that we hold so dear will never leave their cultural heritage far behind in their designs.

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