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A quiet designer

By Chen Jie | China Daily | Updated: 2014-09-26 07:04

A quiet designer

Ma Ke (left) works with a rural artisan on a fashion design in her Zhuhai workshop.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The city's neon lights were visible from where I was seated, but in a way I was lost in the quiet evening that Ma had created.

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Although known in China's fashion industry for the past two decades, Ma became a household name overnight after President Xi Jinping's wife, Peng Liyuan, wore clothes designed by Ma during Xi's first state visit to Russia in March 2013.

After media reports suggested that Ma, 43, may have designed Peng's clothes, people started to look for Ma online. Websites showed that the designer had an association with Exception, a Guangzhou-based brand that she and her former husband created.

A few days later, Ma publicly acknowledged that she was indeed behind the first lady's look, but also clarified that she had left Exception in 2006 and had since taken a different direction.

In 1988, Ma left her hometown, Changchun in northeastern Jilin province, to study design at the Suzhou Silk Institute in eastern Jiangsu province.

After graduation in 1992, Ma joined a fashion company in Guangzhou in southern China's Guangdong province. After three years, she felt it was "a disaster for a designer to work in a company that only pursued profit".

And then, she met designer Mao Jihong and married him. The couple founded Exception in 1996. It is one of China's first independent fashion labels. Mao took care of marketing and branding while Ma focused on designing.

Exception produced simple yet attractive women's ready-to-wear clothes and secured a number of loyal high-end customers, including Peng.

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