Ma Ke is out to break fashion's hierarchy

By Zhao Xu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-06-27 08:17:24

Ma Ke is out to break fashion's hierarchy

Wu Yong Space in Beijing. [Photo/China Daily]

'Buy only what you need'

Ma's concept can be analyzed by looking around the Wu Yong store in Beijing a bit longer.

Originally the facility, like a handful other locations for modern boutiques in the city, was a factory that had long ceased operations. Modeled on a typical rural Chinese house, the space is divided into multiple areas that include a front yard, a living room, a kitchen and a bath, where a stone manger for horses serves as the bathtub.

Inside a study-like area, the hand-battered bronze casing of a lantern makes it appear dramatic when the soft light from within passes through its many crevices.

"I want everything to look genuinely old because old things are infinitely more interesting than new ones," says Ma of the deliberate dents made on the goods. "Embedded in them is ancient wisdom."

An exhibition of Chinese baskets from different times in the past century is ongoing at the store. The displays are from Ma's personal collection gathered during her travels through the countryside in the recent few years.

Ending in September, the show aims to bring out the best of craftsmanship among weavers - most of whom worked with bamboo slits - and the full intricacy of their creations is marked by shadows of the baskets cast on the walls and floors, thanks to some ingenious lighting.

Ma, who is the show's curator, has a knack of saying what she intends to say, powerfully and succinctly.

In 2007, her style became remarkably clear in Paris, where she was invited by the French Federation of Pr��t �� Porter and Haute Couture, an industry association, to make a fashion presentation. "Land," her show, put models in voluminous clothing on pedestals, that gave them a statuesque, Grecian look.

Some clothes for the show had been buried underground for a while. So, the effect wasn't merely visual, but also visceral.

"I let nature, which is the greatest creator of all, give the final touches," Ma says, adding that since it wasn't a typical runway event, she and her team didn't have to worry about front-row seating arrangements for the fashion elite.

She also says that people who had speculated about "who would sit where" must have felt embarrassed when the curtains lifted and all they had to do is rush to a central location at the venue where the models were positioned.

"The fashion hierarchy is another thing we set out to dismantle," Ma says.

The designer was invited again to Paris a year later for an open-air show titled "Luxury of Austerity". The clothes were anything but fashionable.

"It's a typical Chinese notion that the ultimate luxury is from the richness of mind, which often is the expression for frugality."

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