Safeguards in style: Designer arms youth with pride from China’s self-made aircraft carrier
Published: Apr 30, 2022 11:55 AM Updated: May 03, 2022 11:55 AM

Sailors in the fashion clothing pose in front of the aircraft carrier <em>Shandong</em> for the street style photos. Photo: Courtesy of Glory Made

Sailors in the fashion clothing pose in front of the aircraft carrier Shandong for the street style photos. Photo: Courtesy of Glory Made

Editor's note:

China's first white paper published recently on its youth describes its young generation as "confident, aspirant and responsible". According to the document, Chinese youth possess a global vision and stand at the forefront of the times bursting with commitment: pursuing lofty ideals with a firm belief in socialism with Chinese characteristics. Young people are also described in the paper as full of patriotism, displaying the sterling quality of living up to responsibilities and striving to be contributors to the country's development.

Wednesday marks the national Youth Day, which falls on May 4 to honor the patriotic youth movement - the 1919 May Fourth Movement that began 103 years ago. On this special occasion which also marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Youth League of China, the Global Times presents a series of stories about four prominent figures of the young generation, who were nourished in great times with ample opportunities and have been sparing no efforts in promoting Guochao, also known as Chinese trends or "China chic", to the international stage. Looking ahead to the new era, their stories fully showcase that youth is the most active and vital force in society and the hopes of a country and the future of a nation lie in their hands. This is the second part in the series in which we can get to see these young faces, a young designer who is helping popularize China's aircraft carrier culture centering the Shandong vessel.The rest stories are Gen-Z director amazes world with ancient dancing show, pledges to be cultural promoter, and Young Chinese culture promoter presents traditional handicrafts to Oxford Uni and Milan Fashion Week.

It was April 23, the PLA Navy Day, and 24-year-old fashion designer Tang Ziwei was even busier. The designer behind the fashion line of the Shandong, China's first domestically built aircraft carrier, was to come up with new designs to meet the enthusiasm of young people for China's own fast developing naval culture. 

"Not only the whole team including me but also thousands of China's navy fans are so excited about the day, when we can cheer for the Chinese navy," the 1998-born Tang told the Global Times. "What's more, I feel even prouder to part of it, being able to contribute to the country's own navy culture with my talent and my understanding of culture."

Three years after the Shandong was launched in 2017, Glory Made, the studio that Tang works for, released the first products inspired by the ship from baseball caps to toy models. 

"It turned out to be a great success among the young public, who show great interest in the Shandong and the Navy," recalled Xie dahuan, who runs the studio. 

Sailors in the fashion clothing pose in front of the aircraft carrier <em>Shandong</em> for the street style photos. Photo: Courtesy of Glory Made

Sailors in the fashion clothing pose in front of the aircraft carrier Shandong for the street style photos. Photo: Courtesy of Glory Made

Passion for PLA Navy

"All sold out. People need to place orders first and wait for weeks before receiving them." The passion and pride for China's own home-produced aircraft carrier influenced ordinary people and also the designers like Tang who made it their own dream to get more people fall in love with China's own naval culture. 

In order to achieve that goal, Glory Made released the fashion line in the summer of 2021, which includes T-shirts, shorts and the popular flight jackets full of China's own design languages and cultural elements. 

"You see the logo we designed, the Chinese characters as well as the panda graphic designs ... they are unique and represent our young people's cultural confidence," said Tang, who visited the Shandong for inspiration only months after joining the studio. Seeing such a large vessel, 300 meters long and over 20 floors tall, she was stunned in front of the giant.

"It is too spectacular. Words can't express my feelings at that time: pride, excitement, joy and more," she recalled. Claiming she wasn't a military fan herself, the young woman fell in love with the ship after the trip. "Stepping on the ship and talking with these young people, soldiers, pilots, most at my age, made me make up my mind to introduce to more people the pride, passion and positive energy that I received and experienced myself," she said.

Photo: Designer Tang Ziwei

Photo: Designer Tang Ziwei

Chinese aesthetic culture

Now, even her computer's wallpaper is a picture of the Shandong. How to make young people be attracted to these cultural products inspired by the Navy has been something that Tang and her colleagues started to plan from the very beginning. Every detail has been carefully added with Chinese elements like propitious clouds embroidery on the baseball cap.

To Tang, creating things with guochao or "China chic style" is the reason why she started. "Staying true to my original heart means that I need to apply these inspirations that our own culture brings and show the confidence that wearing these products can bring," she said. Tang hopes to spread traditional culture among her peers especially those born after 1995.

"We grew up during the country's fast developing period and are witnessing the strength of China. So we are eager to tell the world about our sincere patriotic feelings and cultural pride."

Clothing is the best carrier of that confidence. In Tang's designs, the name of the Shandong in Chinese characters is embroidered on the front of their most popular flight jacket, bringing a feeling of "high class." "Serve the People," the Chinese writing of the Communist Party of China's motto, is also attached on several T-shirts. 

A series of cool photo shoots of the sailors and pilots in these clothes posing on the Shandong has been widely reported by Chinese and overseas media outlets like CNN. According to Tang, the T-shirts imprinted with the image of a robot panda are also popular among young sailors. Half of the panda was in the suit of a jet pilot and the other half in a mechanical structure while its claws are boosted with jets. 

Due to the safety requirement on the ship, these sailors have to wear clothes made of pure cotton in some occasions. "Xinjiang cotton, one of the best in the world, has been wildly used on the whole fashion line. It feels soft and comfortable," she said. From the raw material and designs, Tang and her colleagues choose the best of the best for the Shandong cultural products. "Young people like me, who refuse the idea of tangping (lying flat), are working in every area to let the world see the strength of Chinese people and power of Chinese design, and feel the warmth of Chinese culture," Tang said.