China Fashion As A Means Of Soft Power

Soft power: A persuasive approach to international relations, typically involving the use of economic or cultural influence. Nowadays, in a mixture of unresolved issues and conflicts, the soft power skills become more and more in a demand, as a great, at hand solution to many. While there are still nations that base their ruling on demand and control, the world of the future is arguably the one of influence.

Throwback: Les Incroyables, the French Revolution. Punk rock-y revved up, wearing eccentric clothing mixed with high-end jewelry from executed royalty when redistributing the nation’s wealth. Clothing can be worn to bring people together during a revolutionary movement. It’s a form of soft power.

Bring what you believe into all of the arts and design – even when the 2021 world is seemingly coming apart at the seams.

Do Chinese fashion & lifestyle have an increasing influence abroad? It’s two-fold.

For example. One the one hand, we are talking actual creativity and new approaches towards fashion. Educational fashion bastions (such as Parsons’ New School in New York) feature graduate selections counting more and more Chinese citizens.

Thing is that many of these millennial Chinese fashion students are dealing with mixed feelings and experience a sense of duality. In a way, they feel torn between the total freedom a city like New York has to offer (often in terms of sexual orientation, even in 2021) and the constraints of parental supervision they still feel hovering over their heads all the way from China. Their designs tell the story of ambiguity.

Fashionably speaking, this translates into breathtaking, groundbreaking design.

And then, of course, there are the big names bordering on becoming new fashion institutions like Masha Ma, Angel Chen, Shushu Tong/Studio, Xander Zhou,…, who are presenting their FROWs with new images of contemporary China. And yes, people do ask… “This is CHINA?!” Yep. ‘Tis.

On the other hand, we’re talking no-nonsense sales numbers. Take, for example, T-Mall. T-Mall in February 2018 hosted its first T-Mall China Day, a one day event showcasing a host of Chinese (athleisure) design, from Li Ning to Chen Peng. Groundbreaking? No. Interesting to yours truly? Nope. Enticing to the 500+ U.S. and other Western influencers invited to attend this show of “fresh, exotic” design? Absolutely. The audience was cooing away. You should’ve been there.