Knitting Queen

By Liao Danlin Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-20 20:13:01

Gioia Pan Photo: Courtesy of Pan


Pan's design at the 2014 Spring/Summer China Fasion Week in October. Photo: CFP

As the weather turns warmer in mid-March, it becomes time to pack all our heavy coats away and switch our wardrobe to "spring and summer" mode. Of course, those in the fashion industry always have to be one step ahead, which is why the coming Fall/Winter China Fashion Week next week will be a fresh new feast for the eyes as we see what hits the runway.

An important part of China Fashion Week every season, the Asahi Kasei Chinese Fashion Designer Creativity Award this year will be given to Taiwanese designer Gioia Pan (Pan Yiliang), more commonly known as the "knitting queen."

A knack for knitting

Born in Taiwan and having studied in Japan, Pan's designs naturally feature an Asian style. Starting with a haute couture shop based in Taiwan, she established her Gioia Pan brand back in 2001 and gradually expanded her collection to include a variety of designs for the international market.

"Japanese design masters such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo were all well received in Europe when I was at college and so their styles also influenced me. I also learned a lot about the preciseness of Japanese culture, which focuses on presenting a material's characteristics and paying attention to every single detail," Pan told the Global Times.    

When Pan was studying knitting design at Bunka Fashion College in Japan, the idea that one single thread could create unlimited possibility with just a little imagination inspired her to continue using knitted fabrics to present the beauty of the female form after graduation.

Unlike some other knitting designers who like to employ well-developed techniques using high-tech machines, Pan prefers handmade products, seeking uniqueness in her sewing.

The knitting technique used in her works, which utilizes the dropping effect of knitted material to show feminine curves, has been a special characteristic of her brand.

In recent years, Pan has also fell in love with incorporating leather, silk and many different kinds of materials into her knitting designs as ornaments.

According to an analysis of marketing trends conducted by, the emphasis for 2014 will be on natural and environmental-friendly fashion designs.

Pan agrees with this view, "I like flexible and functional materials, especially eco-friendly ones." 

Fashion reflecting the world

Over the past decade, Pan has been invited to participate in various international fashion shows and has cooperated with big brands such as Bvlgari, Estée Lauder, Swarovski and Piaget. Meanwhile, her own brand is seen by many as having the greatest potential of becoming a reputable high-end brand like Missoni or Sonia Rykiel.

Zhang Zilin, a China mainland model and Miss World 2007, has publicly expressed many times her preference for Pan's clothing. In fact she wore several Gioia Pan dresses throughout the Miss World competition and when receiving her crown.

For Pan, inspiration comes from the observation of daily life, such as dialogues with a friend, a glass of wine, a particular dish or other small details of life.

The title of her upcoming show this season is called Cracking

Pan explained that global society has experienced a lot of instability over the past year. Natural disasters, economic changes and terrorist attacks have all made people feel unsafe and unsure about their environment.

 Therefore, what Cracking means to describe is that unpleasant feeling we have right before a breakdown. 

"The international social structure is experiencing conflict and turbulence, making people more eager for peace and balance. So this theme is about conflict and compromise, war and peace, materialism and spiritualism, the show presents these topics through elements of fashion. 

This is not a new trend. In fact, since last year, shows joining China Fashion Week have begun a trend where designers show off wearable and glamorous styles that are tied to human concerns in some way.

Many Chinese designers look for inspiration from philosophy and the spiritual world to balance the chaotic and busy lifestyles of most modern people in big cities. One means of doing this is by abandoning sophisticated layers of clothing to pursue a simpler look with an emphasis on silhouettes.

Famed designer Xie Feng explained this trend saying that after years of fast-paced lifestyles and massive consumerism, people are starting to consider the environment and the way we live.

As a result, creating fashion incorporating philosophical ideas suitable for a more easygoing lifestyle is a way to find comfort and peace both for the eyes and the heart.

"Fashion needs to build connections with life and be suitable for a modern lifestyle. The criteria determining if a designer is really mature and talented are that their designs not only look fabulous on stage but that people also want to wear their clothing," he told the Global Times.

The big picture

According to the Chinese Knitting Industry Association, China's knitting industry grew quickly throughout 2013, with exports increasing 12 percent year on year. Regions exported to included Europe Union, the US, Japan and Central and Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, the total revenue of several manufacturers in Ningbo and Qingdao exceeded 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) last year. The quality of domestic textiles have also shown huge improvement, attracting more international high-end brands to order made-in-China knitted materials.

This optimistic industry growth means knitting brands and designers will have more opportunities to grow, while also facing increasing competition this year.

Pan finds that as more designers begin to study abroad and gain an international perspective, there have been an increasing number of young Chinese designers launching their own brands. Customers are also beginning to give recognition to this wide range of Chinese labels.

"The more options customers have in the market, the more competitive the market will be. As such high-quality original designs are a key factor to ensuring a brand can stay around a long time," Pan said.

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