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Fashion Notes: Native Textiles
by Li Wen

As the birthplace of the China's modern textiles industry, the originating port of Chinese silks to the outside world, Shanghai has the reputation of being the country's fashion capital (barring Hong Kong, whose return from British rule belongs to recent memory).

So it is ironic that for decades in the latter half of the 20th century, Shanghai was reduced to low-cost processing for international clothing and footwear brands. Its tailors flocked overseas, many to HK, finding little native market for their handiwork during the austere years of the Cultural Revolution. Its mills and factories turned out workmanlike, unflattering garments indistinguishable from one another by the container-full.

Taste languished. And I fear, discernment, too. It was a sad, sad time for lovers of fashion.

But no more, it seems.

Whereas a mere decade ago, my parents and I would be hard pressed to find anything to wear in Shanghai that was both to our taste and not from a foreign brand, I have been delighted to discover in the last few years an increasing number of exciting, locally designed fashion labels.

Here are my top three favourite Chinese boutique brands, all of which combine beautiful natural fabrics with elegance, comfort, and youthfulness.

* * *

Aesthetic: casual staples with Chinese influenced detailing 
Features: ethical business model, focus on natural and sustainable materials 
Fabrics: cotton, modal, silk, bamboo, wool, cashmere 
Personal favourites: silk blouses, cashmere jumpers, maxi dresses

NuoMi is currently having its holiday sale, with clothing up to 50% off. So if you happen to be in Shanghai, think about checking it out at Xinle Lu, Biyun Lu, Wujiang Lu or Changning Lu. 

Aesthetic: monochromatic urban chic, Balmain meets Haider Ackermann
Features: draping and layering, unconventional and asymmetric cuts
Fabrics: silk, cotton, lots and lots of wool
Personal favourites: extremely well-tailored trousers, fitted silk dresses, long-sleeved tops for layering

Aesthetic: relaxed, quirky atheletic hip; called China's Marc Jacobs by the WSJ
Features: bright primary and secondary colours; fun, graphic prints
Fabrics: wool, camel, organic cotton, silk
Personal favourites: colourful winter coats, sportswear-inspired dresses

Noteworthy mention: Silk King, which carries on Shanghai's tradition of silk and garment trade. Its branches are ubiquitous across Shanghai, but I especially recommend its multi-story flagship store on Nanjing Road, which offers the widest range of products - including fabrics, bedding, scarves, readymade and tailored clothing, sleepwear, etc. - and the best service.

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12/21/2012 [4]

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