Asian Designers Go GaGa Over Paris Fashion

by Hannah Punitha on Oct 2 2007 1:50 PM

Paris has long been the world's undisputed fashion capital but now it truly is going global, with ever more Asian designers opting to show here to grab a bigger share of the international market.

"I wanted to give myself a big challenge," Manish Arora told AFP after becoming the first Indian designer to present ready-to-wear in the French capital on Sunday.

Asked why he had defected from London where he has shown for four seasons, he said: "Let's face it, Paris is the city for fashion. I wanted a bigger audience, bigger press."

"I'll be here again next season," he said. "To stay among the big names is a real challenge."

"The world is getting smaller," says China's Frankie Xie of the Beijing-based Jefen label, in his second season here.

He has moved to Paris "because I think is a very good place to promote our brand, not just for the Chinese but also for the international market."

South Korea's Lie Sang Bong says he is encouraged by the inroads Asian designers are now making on the world fashion scene. "I think it is a great opportunity for cultural exchange," he said.

All three designers were among the first to present their collections for next spring-summer as fashion week opened here at the weekend.

Manish Arora's show was a rumbustuous mix of Andy Warhol-style Pop Art and traditional Indian handicraft, like Rajasthan mirrorwork, presented with Bollywood panache.

Lurid lime and shocking pink, with liberal doses of glitz, dominated his intricately hand-embroidered and sequin-encrusted silks and brocades depicting the moustachioed faces of Maharajas and sultry Maharanis -- which took 100 people over two months to prepare.

There was a definite 1970s hippie feel to the long tailored jackets and flares, and in the models' bouffant hairdos, backcombed and frazzled, their faces framed with day-glo alice bands which were picked up in the strobe lights.

Xie dedicated his show to the upcoming Beijing Olympics.

"I do a lot of sport and many of my friends do sport. China's swift economic development means many more people are wanting to play sports. Because of the Olympics I hope in the next year that sports clothing will develop on the international market," he said.

But his take on sportswear was decidedly tongue-in-cheek, not suited for anything more strenuous than the disco floor, let alone the athletics track.

The models dangled fake-fur boxing gloves in day-glo pink or baby blue as they teetered down the catwalk in towering patent leather stilettos with anklets, some of them further hobbled by tassels in the heels.

The overall look was sportily chic: a plethora of cropped leggings, striped ankle socks, hoodies and shiny satin tracksuit tops, and jumpsuits in turquoise, lemon and lime, with witty accessories like matching water bottles.

For outside, he showed anoraks, trenchcoats and hooded overalls with drawstrings in a crinkled, glazed fabric.

While there was little intrinsically Chinese about the Jefen collection, Lie Sang Bong was not afraid to show his Korean roots, whether in his delicate prints of trees and blossoms transferred by laser onto silk chiffon and satin gowns, or in the calligraphy only just discernible on an anthracite sequinned jacket.

His inspiration for the collection was the 1920s Bauhaus era, so all his models wore tiny black Juliet caps and many of the designs were sculptural, almost architectural in concept.

Cocktail frocks assembled from varying sizes of discs in stiffened silk which trembled as the models walked were a feat, if somewhat Michelin man in effect.