Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Beauty of the Orient

The classical Chinese dress, cheongsam, has seen a growing popularity in the fashion scene, becoming a favorite of fashion lovers around the globe.

The latest explorations of the cheongsam’s beauty came from three leading Indonesian haute couturiers, Biyan Wanaatmadja, Adrian Gan and Sebastian Gunawan. They explored the cheongsam’s beauty with their latest masterpieces to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New year.

The cheongsam creates an impression of simple elegance, modestly showing the softness and beauty of the female form.

Cheongsam provide fashion designers with various creative choices: the length of the dress might be short, knee-length or floor-length, as well as the sleeves.

“I would never get enough, taking cheongsam as inspiration. It’s just like when we are talking about kebaya [traditional Indonesian blouse],” said renowned fashion designer Biyan Wanaatmadja.  

“It’s an eastern legacy, just like kebaya. In terms of silhouette, it makes women’s legs appear more slender.”

Cheongsam were no longer something to be worn only on special occasions -- it’s more of an international gown, he said.

“It becomes one of the must-have items for socialites. A fashionista has at least one piece of cheongsam,” Biyan said.

Some of cheongsam’s signature traits are the high neck and closed collar, accentuating the formal look.

“In the Chinese tradition, the higher the collar, the sexier the cheongsam. The high neck brings a sexy attitude for the wearer,” says designer Adrian Gan, who has worked in the fashion industry for more than 25 years.

Adrian has long been famous for his trademark tight-fitting cheongsam.

Sebastian Gunawan shared a similar thought.

“There are no limitations on cheongsam’s modifications. Cheongsam continually adapts to its current situation. Now, it comes up in an expressive look,” said Sebastian, who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles in 1988 and Italy’s Instituto Artistico Dell’ Abbigliamento Marangoni.

“Cheongsam is like kebaya, which can be paired with modern stuff like mini-dresses and pants.”

While the original cheongsam is relatively simple and does not use too much in the way of details or accessories such as frills or ruffles, modern day designers interpret cheongsam in their own respective styles.

Biyan, Adrian Gan and Sebastian Gunawan came up with different ideas in designing cheongsam with modern style, which they showed in three-day event called Appreciation Party, held at Hotel Mulia in Senayan, South Jakarta. The event was also organized to welcome the celebration of Chinese New year.

On the first day, Biyan presented “Romance”, a theme on the horizon, showcasing 36 sets of classical yet modern cheongsam made of tulle, silk, lace, taffeta and jacquard.   

He translated the idea of the Chinese traditional female attire into capes, jackets, mini pencil dresses and flowing evening gowns adorned with crystals and complimented by stones, silver, pearls and bronze.

The silhouette was classic and the pieces were mostly in soft colors like blue, light green, beige and silver.

Adrian Gan had his turn on day two, where he showed his “Tales of the Unexpected” collection, taking inspiration from the Chinese olden days, during the era of the Qing or Manchu dynasty, China’s last dynasty which ruled from 1644 to 1912.

Instead of designing fitted cheongsam, Adrian displayed his exquisite work in designing cheongsam in the form of a number of boxy and baby-doll dresses set in embroidered silk.

The color palette was of bright hues, including red, green, yellow and orange. The elaboration of the Manchurian culture and modern cut gave a chic yet fresh feel.

He then presented some long coats, which reminded us of the grandeur of kings and queens of the era.

Adrian also went all-out with the makeup, as the model’s faces were stark white, as if they were wearing masks. Coupled with the blood-red lipstick, it gave a look resembling a traditional Chinese woman’s small pout.

The use of high headpieces and super-high-heeled and colorful clogs strengthened the air of old Manchurian culture.

On day three, it was Sebastian Gunawan — Seba, as his friends call him — who came with his “Chinois Express” collection.

He brought basic cheongsam in many forms and shapes, and blended them with a 1950s-style elegant silhouette.

Sebastian chose fabrics like duchess, brocade, lace, chiffon and tulle for his collection, while he put embroidery, gemstones, faux fur and wire as the applications. As for the color, he used silver, brown and baby pink.

The shoulders were accentuated, giving an elegant and formal look, while the back of the dress was open, revealing the stunning backs of the models. JP/Triwik Kurniasari

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