photos by Jiang Dong
The awe-inspiring deserts and enthralling mystique of Dunhuang, along China's famed Silk Road, provided an exotic runway for the haute couture designs of Pierre Cardin. The legendary fashion godfather, who made his first presence in China 30 years ago, showed his 2008 Spring/Summer release in the vast desert of Mingsha Mountain, or whistling Sand Mountain, near Dunhuang, along the Silk Road in Northwest China's Gansu Province this month.
A collection of 200 fashion pieces were shown. Cardin and his chief designer Sergio Altieri, who has worked with Cardin for more than 30 years, were on hand to field questions about the collection.
More than 100 models walked along the 280m stretch, at the bottom of the mountainous dunes once traversed by traders and pilgrims on the ancient route. This desert oasis, where East once met West, is home to one of the world's greatest shrines to Buddhism.
"It is a miracle of the desert," said 85-year-old Cardin.
The fashion show was themed Marco Polo. The clothes of this season were divided into three different series Venice, The Silk Road and Xanadu. Venice masks, a Chinese dragon, dance and kungfu were all used to connect the three parts of the extravaganza, creating a 2-hour-long fashion show studded with glamor and spectacle.
"We created the idea of the missionary Marco Polo who arrived in China through the Silk Road 700 years ago," said Fang Fang, Pierre Cardin's chief representative in China. "It is just like Mr Cardin who brought Western fashion to China during the 70s. Like Macro Polo who bridged the ancient country and the West, the empire of Pierre Cardin has been using the West's original fashion to open the door of China."
The nearby Mogao Caves, painted with murals dating to the fourth century, were built by the monks who helped bring Buddhism from India. The caves have been designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.
The caves are a legacy of Dunhuang's emergence more than 2,000 years ago during the Han Dynasty as a crucial entranceway into China by the Silk Road, which served as the principal trade route to the West.
Cardin is an enigmatic fashion figure with a career spanning more than 6 decades. Born in 1922, Cardin arrived in Paris in 1945. He started to work for Paquin and then Schiaparelli and made the acquaintance of Jean Cocteau and Christian Berard, with whom he designed numerous costumes and masks for several films. In 1946, he began to work for Christian Dior.
The man who has built the world's most successful fashion empire and who is a celebrity in five continents was the first to understand the importance of ready-to-wear, to take the stuffing out of menswear and make it athletic, to create futuristic fashion when it was just a laser beam in the eye. He was a pioneer in postwar Japan and took his fashion to China and Russia. He linked fashion to art, using his own theater often to promote unknown talent -- and, of course, himself.
The climax of the show came with Chinese model Chun Xiao in a wedding gown, making her grand entrance on a camel. Another eye-catching touch was the Chinese red, resembling the color of the national flag.
"The design is for China," said Cardin. His models wore accessories highlighting this, including large copper jewelry hanging on models' waist or chest, inspired by the ancient Chinese locks seen on traditional, heavy red doors.
The fashion master shows no sign of slowing, despite his half century at the top of the industry. He next brings the Marco Polo musical to China during the Summer Olympic Games at the new National Grand Theatre, presenting the audience with a fusion of stage culture, fashion and creativity.
(China Daily 10/24/2007 page17)