Telum Media in late 2018 came calling to find out more about China’s Fashion and Lifestyle scene and also required a little zest of Temper Magazine. and van Paridon happily obliged.
Fung: You studied Sinology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. How does your academic background contribute to your coverage on China fashion scene?
Van Paridon: “I suppose it’s that crossroad where education meets inspiration and creates passion – a favourite word of mine in any language, just another random fact du jour from / on yours truly. Growing up in 1980s Antwerp, Belgium, I (the orange- and bitterballen-loving Dutch one) was exposed to colorful pop culture icons such as Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Prince, etc., who had taken fashion into cutting edge new directions. The ways in which they played with their clothing proved fascinating and captivating from the start – and remains an inspiration to this day.
Decades went by (slightly exaggerating here) and it was precisely through my studies that I came into contact with then up-and-coming (and now bonafide catwalk crushing) Chinese designers such as Xander Zhou, whose innovative ideas triggered an intense interest for the pioneering fashion scene within China. The China fashion scene is more than your mere cover shot; it’s the visualisation of a changing social landscape. It is the academic background that equips one with a deeper understanding of a nation – not just on the linguistic level, that for me is a given, but on the historical, political and social levels too. Education is empowerment. In order to understand the movement forward, and to move forward in se, you have to go back to the beginning. Put in fashion lingo… As is the case with any wardrobe, from capsule to couture-committed:
Know your basics.“
Fung: After living in Beijing for six years, have you experienced any changes in the perception of mainland China? Any cultural collisions have you faced?
Van Paridon: “It’s the story of economic development. When you look at South Korea in the 1960s and 70s or Japan throughout the 1980s and 90s, you can spot the pattern. A nation decided to alter its political system in order to open up and become more appealing to the outside world – and thus becomes more susceptible to global influences. Economic development, often capitalistically styled (aka “a means to an end”; ahem), ensues and in turn sparks an evolution within society. Once a middle class is in place, the urban landscape changes into a shopping Walhalla and we reach the final step of development: That of the individual. Here, fashion comes into play – and plays its finest tunes. Here, personal style is created. Here, the individual starts using clothing as a means of communicating with the outside world. Here, the perception of a society and a nation at large changes.
As far as China goes: ‘Here’ is now.
About the cultural collisions, then… Oooof. Instead of going through a checklist which might make me come across as an ungrateful brat, which I am not as China has given me the opportunity of a lifetime, I will say (and keep it at) this: The Northern European voice + Big Brother Beijing = Censorship. To this day, cliché cliché, certain topics – usually the underground ones we love, cherish and publish – remain off-limits given they are still considered to be both politically and socially subversive; at times literally containing subcultural verses. Think drag, rave, hip-hop, graffiti, certain photography and print art, sex(uality)… Nevertheless, please do remember that these aforementioned issues are more than alive and kicking with the post-80s and post-90s of China.
If you ask me, anything “sub-” is super.
Trending-wise: It’s all about young, intoxicating and congenial rebellion. China’s post-95ers, especially, are setting the pace for the nation’s rejuvenation. Their designs capture and highlight in unbridled fashion the different traits of all layers in Chinese contemporary society, from that rebellious and unruly bad boy to your classically poised girl, how very ‘Breakfast Club’, everyone has their own exclusive Temper – yea yea yea, insert ‘wink’.”
Read the full interview right here, on Telum Media!
Thank you Shelley Fung and Telum Media for devoting some time to yours temperamental truly, Elsbeth van Paridon.