Marc Jacobs’s sent a Shanghai-inspired collection down the runway this week for Louis Vuitton, but instead of the sophistication that usually comes from fashion’s wonder boy, the clothes were bogged down with Oriental stereotypes.
The reaction to the show has been pretty lukewarm, mainly because it’s full of costumey cliches: models walked in mandarin collars, tasseled cheong sams, and panda and tiger prints while flicking fans about.
Several media outlets have taken the East Asian influenced show to be a ploy to court the Chinese market. Fashion critic, Suzy Menkes writes, “By the time the first models had sashayed out in slim dresses slit to reveal the leg, you didn’t need a master’s in Mandarin to get the message that China is hot retail property for Louis Vuitton.”
That much is true but then again, the same could be said of almost any company. In truth, the collection was hardly aimed at the Chinese customer. Do Chinese people actually want to walk around looking like china dolls? It’s doubtful. Even Menkes notes in the next sentence, “…Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, in a scoop-front Vuitton dress from last season, seemed mystified by the Chinese element…”
There’s also confusion about where the inspiration even comes from. Marc Jacobs expressed that he drew on his experiences working for Kansai Yamamoto and cited Kenzo Takada and other Japanese and not Chinese designers as his source of ideas. Still, the collection has mostly been hailed by critics as “Chinese.” Ehh, Japan–China, it’s all the same, right?
Jacobs makes it clear the show was meant to be “camp” which provides some degree of relief–at least he knows it’s not reality–but it’s still uncomfortably similar to the comments Karl Lagerfeld made in defense of his Chanel pre-fall 2010 Shanghai show video where models appear in yellow-face.
It appears that for the time being, international designers are still uninterested in depicting real Chinese fashion, just “fun” and “gaudy” romanticized parades of cheong sams and the like. It’s less Shanghai and more “Orient”–whatever that means.
For more pictures, check out Lilian Pacce’s Flickr stream