Vulgar or fashionable?

By Yang Lan Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-9 16:48:01

Expat fashion bloggers share their insights about Chinese style

What is fashion in China? Is it the pajamas that senior citizens wear on the street? Or is it the Chinese elements that celebrities showcased at the Met Gala? What do foreigners think about the style of Chinese people and expats in Shanghai? The Global Times talked with three Shanghai-based expat fashion bloggers to get their insight about fashion in China.

Lucie Guyard

The shiny, the daring and the crazy

The other day, Lucie Guyard saw a girl on street wearing blue jeans with a Mickey Mouse design paired with pink UGG shoes. She was so shocked that she took a photo and uploaded it onto Facebook with the caption: "Shanghai, fashion city!"

"This has become a style in China. I also often see shiny jeans and pajamas, and you cannot miss them on street," Guyard said.

Hailing from France, Guyard started her own blog commenting on fashion and lifestyle seven years ago. In her platform, she makes comics about the fashion and lifestyle in Shanghai. She also has a WeChat account (ID: LaPtiteLu).

Unlike Guyard, Canadian fashion blogger Yanie Durocher loves the pajama looks. "It is their 'in,'" said Durocher, who came to Shanghai two years ago and works in a public relations agency. She has a fashion blog called The Marginalist.

"We decided to call it The Marginalist because it spoke about the road less traveled. You need to be a little bit marginal to do something different," Durocher said.

Durocher has a background in footwear, and she believes that footwear lines in China are much more daring than anywhere else. "When I first came here, I did not know what kind of products were sold on Taobao, so I started to look. It was quite impressive. I found that Chinese footwear was really crazy."

Camilla Gleditsch from Norway had a similar realization. After working in fashion merchandising for her mother's shoe shop for over seven years, Gleditsch discovered Taobao when she came to China to work as a lecturer at International Fashion Academy Shanghai. She started buying new shoes every four days on Taobao.

But after she realized that all her Taobao shoes broke after two months, she went back to buying the expensive shoes from her mother's store, because of their superior quality.

Gleditsch started her own fashion blog in 2007 when she was studying at London College of Fashion. Her good friend Prince Cassius, the London-based TV host and fashion blogger, introduced her into London's blogger circle.

Last year, she developed a blog platform called That's It Magazine. The platform tries to get foreign fashion bloggers together and bring more awareness to them in China. The blog recently launched its public WeChat account to publish content in both English and Chinese.

Now, every time Guyard sees her friends wearing new shoes, she asks them: "Taobao?" And the answers are "yes" most of the times. Those shiny, low-priced and uniquely designed products from Taobao are essential style choices for some Chinese people. They are everywhere, unforgettable and even influential to foreigners in China. But are they Chinese style? The bloggers' answer shows: not really.

Camilla Gleditsch

Chinese style evolution

At the last Met Gala, American celebrities wore dresses designed to fit the year's theme: "China: Through the Looking Glass."

But the Chinese press mocked their dresses. Rihanna's yellow gown was called a Chinese pancake, and Sarah Jessica Parker's hat was compared to the mascot of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

"The designers for the Met Gala had fallen into a cliché of Chinese elements. They wore what they thought was Chinese, but it actually wasn't," Guyard said.

In the past, Chinese designers put obvious Chinese elements like dragons on their clothing to show that they were from China. Today, it's more about the design itself.

"If you look at the designs and you cannot tell that they are Chinese, those are from the better Chinese designers," Gleditsch said.

When these expat fashion bloggers go shopping in Shanghai, they tend to only buy practical things. They take their fashion and luxury shopping overseas.

Guyard likes to go to vintage shops when she leaves China for vacations. Durocher will spend 300 to 400 dollars for a single pair of shoes when she goes overseas. Gleditsch shops more in Shanghai because she loves buying jewelry - especially bracelets and big rings - but she finds it hard to get vintage pieces in Shanghai compared to London. Her favorite pieces are still the ones that she bought overseas.

Yanie Durocher Photos: Courtesy of the bloggers and Anna Uvarova

A place to shine

Chinese design still has a long way to go before it can compare with top international design, according to these fashion bloggers.

For now, many fashionable expats love Chinese niche brands and designers. Durocher believes that Shanghai expats prefer to going to boutique and concept stores.

There are also many foreign independent designers that try to start up businesses in Shanghai, because the market here for emerging designers is still fresh and untapped.

"In Shanghai, we are able to see these amazing independent designers that we wouldn't see in big fashion capitals like Paris. They stand out more in Shanghai than in Paris," said Gleditsch.

As Shanghai still cannot compete with Milan or Paris in the fashion industry, the competition among fashion designers is less severe, and it is easier for new designers to get noticed. Many expats love these new, niche designers.

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, About Town

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