Ancient skill, new designs

Over 400 fashion products melding inherited traditional skills with modern designs were displayed at the Shanghai Design Week over the weekend in a bid to keep the heritage alive.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Visitors pose in front of an art installation which incorporate the traditional blue-dyed cloth, wax dyeing and embroider skills of China's ethnic minorities at the Shanghai Design Week over the weekend.

Over 400 fashion products melding inherited traditional skills with modern designs were on display at Shanghai Design Week over the weekend showcasing how traditiona heritage can be kept alive in contemporary society.

The exhibits designed by handicraft masters, mostly from remote mountainous regions and designers from around the world, are were the centerpiece at the Shanghai Exhibition Center, showing how ancient skills can be used to craft modern products.

The blue cloth, for instance, a listed intangible cultural heritage dating back to over 1,000 years, was made into scarves and used to decorate sofas. The woven silk of the Bouyei ethnic minority from southwest Guizhou Province has been made into fashionable handbags.

He Hongbing, a bamboo weaver from Zhejiang Province, worked with Dutch designers Yvonne Lauryssen and Erik Mantel to incorporate his traditional weaving into modern lamps. A master of Tibetan silver jewellery from northwestern Qinghai Province, attached his work onto French leather handbags.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Visitors take photos of some puppet dolls that incorporate the traditional blue-dyed cloth, wax dyeing and embroider skills of China's ethnic minorities at the Shanghai Design Week over the weekend.

These works come from a Ministry of Culture training program which send those with traditional skills to study in university for a month.

Since program began in 2015, 128 universities and colleges have participated in classes for 15,000 heritage handicraft masters in disciplines such as bamboo carving, silver jewellery making, mud sculpture and ceramics.

Shanghai University’s Academy of Fine Arts, a leading institute of the program has trained over 600 heritage handicraft masters and developed hundreds of products in three years with the help of professors and designing students of the university, said Zhang Lili, associate professor in charge of the classes.

"Cultural heritages is alive and well, but must evolve with new techniques in the international era," Zhang said.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A visitor takes photo on a fashion costume which involves traditional wax dyeing skills at the Shanghai Design Week over the weekend.

In a prominent exhibit at fashion week, four of the nation's ancient heritage skills are combined into a modern art installation named the Hundred Birds Forest.

Hanging clothes incorporating the blue cloth, "hundreds birds costume" and the Danzhai wax dyeing of Miao ethnic minority as well as the Qiang embroider from the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in southwest Sichuan Province.

Visitors will feel like entering a forest surround by the traditional birds' patterns and can closely enjoy the ancient skills, Zhang said.

China has listed 1,986 items of national “intangible cultural heritage,” including literature, music, dance, opera, sports, arts, handicrafts, traditional medicine and folk arts. Some are on the verge of being lost forever.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Visitor watch some fashion costume which involves traditional embroidery skills at the Shanghai Design Week over the weekend.

"The blue-dyeing cloth had once been popular among every Chinese household since Song Dynasty (960-1279), but is disappearing now," said Wu Yuanxin, the inheritor of the dyeing skills.

"The traditional patterns might be out-of-date, but could also become fashion after redevelopment," he said. Wu has applied the blue dyeing patterns on pillows and fashion clothes.

Wu said the Shanghai-style qipao dresses incorporate the blue-dyeing pattern once became a fashion costume in 1930s.

To help preserve the skills, a designing competition was launched on the fashion week over the weekend to invite global designers to help design the traditional skills into fashion products. The winning products which will be publicized in December will be incubated into merchandize, said Jiang Weihui, an organizer with the competition.


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