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Exclusive interview with Ma Ke: Q + A

Updated: 2013-04-03 09:13

Exclusive interview with Ma Ke: Q + A

Style of China's first lady Peng Liyuan

Q: Jason Wu shot to fame after Mrs. Obama wore his clothes. You were already famous and even more so after Peng’s outgoing visit. How has the change affected you?

A: A lot more phone calls and visits have come to me. But I tried to keep my serenity and only answered a few selected requests by letter. Nothing’s really changed. I always believe this: fame and fortune are illusions; it’s who you are that really matters.

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Designs by Ma Ke

Q: Peng’s outfits are all made-in-China, a huge endorsement for Chinese brands and designers?

A: Peng is a good role model for us all. Made-in-China will only transform to designed-by-China of Chinese by their products. The Chinese will care more for the environment and traditional culture after her visit. She has given us confidence.

Q: You wanted “authentic, ethnic and temperamentally Chinese” designs that gave rise to Exception. What about Wu Yong? Have your concepts changed? What’s the difference between Exception and Wu Yong?

A: My ideas and pursuits remain the same, my feelings haven’t changed. Wu Yong is one step beyond what I have done. If I learned the designing language from the first 14 years of my career, I’m speaking it to make my own points with Wu Yong. Exception was founded by me and Mao Jihong in Guangzhou in 1996. It was China’s first designer brand. I was the executive designer from 1996 to 2006. Wu Yong was founded by me in Zhuhai in 2006. Wu Yong is a NGO that aims to keep and reinvent folk culture and arts. It speaks through its products— live simply, grow spiritually. I’m the art director and designer of Wu Yong. It has been my focus since 2006.

Q: How do you see the Chinese fashion industry? Were there a lot of difficulties in 1996, when you became an independent designer? What’s your advice to young aspiring desingers?

A: I haven’t shopped for clothes for more than 7 years now. I can’t claim that I know the industry well. My biggest obstacle when growing as a designer was: before 30, I wanted to know “who I am?” “What am I to do?” and when I’m past 30, I wondered how to get rid of the “I”. This is philosophical, but everyone will face it. Nobody can give you the answer, you can only explore with your whole life.

Q: Who’s your biggest inspiration? Who’s your icon?

A: My icon is nature itself. Among the 7 billion people it creates, no two people are identical. Of the numerous lives it breathes into, no one can live without others.

Q: Why do you want to be a designer? Was it a childhood dream?

A: My mother used to design and make my clothes. I have always loved to draw. I chose to study designing because clothes are close to us and our second skin. Moreover, we all need clothes no matter what. Now, I’m a professional designer. Designing is my spiritual practice and my way to convey love. I love nature. Animals are my companions. My first idol, when I was 7 or 8, was Jean Goodall, who stayed in an African jungle with chimpanzees. I wanted to become a zoologist like her and live with my beloved animals. I have 8 dogs in the office now. I feel blessed that I’ve known how close we are with nature. We rely on each other. It’s very important to my views.


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