Amid the myriad trends circulating this spring/summer season, chinoiserie is back with a vengeance. Many designers have opted for a more liberal interpretation by introducing Western elements, but Japanese fashion designer (and previously costume designer) Keita Maruyama is making deft tweaks to the traditional qipao and adding dashes of whimsy through fabric, yet without detracting from the classic shape.
Drawn to fashion design at a young age, Maruyama – a Tokyo Fashion Week staple – can’t really explain why his collections tend to draw from Chinese culture. “I can only answer that it’s like when you find a boyfriend or girlfriend,” he says. “You’ll find someone that is your type and it’s a certain type of person that you like. Chinese elements in my designs are the same.”
Maruyama shares this predilection for Chinese culture with a stylist friend who also has an enthusiasm for movie nights watching Wong Kar Wai’s classic In the Mood for Love – which perhaps explains how the former’s qipao pop up was borne. And to the surprise of both Maruyama and his friend, Japanese customers snapped up the pieces like hot cakes.
Now, the collection is available for custom order at Hong Kong’s On Pedder boutique, satisfying the cravings of all those who want a piece of this whimsically interpreted mainstay of traditional Chinese elegance. Favourite pieces include a qipao made of electric-blue tweed that can be worn as a cocktail coat or dress, and a silk iteration in one of Maruyama’s signature floral prints.
For those who still need cajoling, here are a few reasons why the qipao is your new cocktail favourite – straight from Maruyama to you:
1. We all need a dash of fantasy in our everyday lives.
2. It’s a beautiful shape that just needs adjusting for modern comfort.
“The traditional qipao is quite focused on the female silhouette and its femininity. So I tried to solve this problem by changing the silhouette and some aspects of the style to make it look more like a one piece – maybe not necessarily for daily wear but something you can wear for special occasions. It would be really fun if women can wear Chinese dresses for special occasions again.”
3. The fabrics are fun and unexpected.
“When I made the cut and silhouette looser than the traditional garment, I also thought about fabric wearability. They’re actually all original fabrics; the patterns, the florals, I designed them all myself. They weren’t exclusively designed for this collection but the fabrics come from my archives, from previous collections. So for example the tweed dress, the tweed came from a previous collection when I had used it to design a coat and I tried to mix it into the qipao for a bit of a twist.”
4. HK Represent.
“A lot of ladies, when they wear qipao, feel very elegant so a lot of people like to wear it. It’s easy to wear and you don’t need to style it with too much to make it look beautiful. It’s really most beautiful when worn on its own.
I was inspired by In the Mood for Love and I personally find Hong Kong to be a very romantic place. For example, in Central, just walking from one end of it to the other, you get to see the mix of modernity and history in the space of a long stroll. That’s what I tried to work into the dresses.”
5. Support Japanese design.
“I’m very proud of Japanese fashion because a lot of Japanese designers like Comme des Garçons and Issey Miyake have really brought us to the international fashion landscape. We also have incredible younger designers like Sacai, Toga and Undercover whom I also love very much.
I think it would be even better for the Japanese fashion industry though, to have a greater variety of designers. Now, there are a lot of avant garde and street designers. Perhaps there is room for designers like me who focus more on elegant womenswear.”