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Embroidering a fashionable career

By Lin Qi | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-10 07:41
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Her work is on display at an ongoing exhibition, Poetic Charm of Splendid Attire, at the National Art Museum of China. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Designer uses inspiration from culture to stitch together strands of creativity, Lin Qi reports.

Born into several generations of embroiderers, fashion designer Lan Yu remembers that her first piece of Su embroidery was a bib made for her by her mother Lan Tanghua, for use as a child at kindergarten.

"It was embroidered with red and yellow flowers and leaves, which encircled five characters in the center that read 'for little friend Lan Yu', which my mom wrote out on paper before she stitched them," recalls the designer, now in her 30s. "The other children wore plain white bibs, with no patterns. My bib made me feel special, because I had a mother who was so skillful. It showed her deep love for me."

Su embroidery is ranked among the four most celebrated kinds of Chinese embroidery. Originating in Suzhou — after which it is named — and spreading to surrounding areas in Jiangsu province, Su embroidery requires delicate workmanship, as exemplified by its variety of stitches and strong sense of color. For a long time, this form of artistry was passed down through women in the same family.

As she studied fashion design, both in China and abroad, Lan Yu has been attempting to blaze new trails for Chinese embroidery and her family heritage, to give the tradition a fresh look more in line with the tastes of the younger generation of customers from around the world.

She and her mother are currently sharing the fruits of their explorations at Poetic Charm of Splendid Attire, an exhibition that runs until Monday at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. On show are dozens of recent designs inspired by classical Chinese poetry and paintings, as well as brocade pieces Lan Yu worked on with her mother, which create chemistry between the past and the present.

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