Call it a coincidence, call it fate. As the Cincinnati Art Museum is showcasing the stunning beauty of Japanese fashion, and its influence in modern designer’s aesthetics, in their new exhibit “Kimono: Refashioning Contemporary Style” (link to the kimono exhibit article new for this issue), across the globe a new voice in Asian luxury design has emerged.

Yang Fang is a relatively young fashion designer, but she’s already taken her well-deserved place among the highly trained courtiers in Paris. Born in China and educated at ESMOD in Paris, Fang returned to China in build her brand in Shanghai. She regularly unveils prêt à porter collections and, until recently, those looking for an Atelier by FANG couture piece could only get one by appointment only.

That was until Yang Fang became the newest designer to show a couture collection in Paris. Focused primarily on origami, the 31-garment line was a tour de force and shows she will soon be named in the same breath as courtiers Giorgio Armani and Elie Saab. As to why origami? Yang told “Women’s Wear Daily”, “kids nowadays play on iPhones and iPads, but when I was little I used to play with paper. My grandmother used to give me sheets of white paper and taught me how to transform them into small animals like frogs and elephants, or stars and flowers. When I arrived at Esmod, I started doing the same thing with fabrics, in order to pay homage to my Asian heritage.”

Each garment was mainly made in silk, featuring delicately folded fabrics in shapes, when put together, formed a masterpiece. Many of her looks – the white mini dress with stitched belting around the waist and the black and white origami short dress with sweetheart neckline especially, were walking mosaics. Swarovski jewels on some of the garments served to highlight the individual shapes in these pieces, reminding the viewer just how difficult garments like these are to create. Fang is a part of Swarovski’s Asia Swarovski Collective, which is a program focused on supporting new talent in Asia.

Look seven – a deep navy gown of all origami shapes – moved the collection to the evening gown portion. With that turn, many of Fang’s walking mosaics of tightly packaged origami shapes were transformed into evening gowns of silk shaped around the body as pieces of origami unto themselves. The gown was now the folded piece of fabric, not merely made up of them.

Add in a dash of perfectly tailored pieces in striped satin, separates of a jacket, wide legged pant and cropped top plus a deep v-neck gown, and you can see the range of technique Yang has in her toolbox.

To top off the show, Fang showed extraordinary designs featuring intricate pleating formed into shapes. Given her focus on celebrating her Asian heritage, some may call it a play on Japanese Designer Issey Miyake’s “Pleats Please” collection. But with the designer’s combination of deeply rich hues (the vibrant fuchsia was a standout) and feminine tailoring around the body, her design aesthetic was all her own. In these pieces especially, you can see the French elegance that only comes with having lived and worked in the French capital.

In a world of machines that can make anything, Fang’s collection served to showcase how an age-old technique made by hand can be revitalized for the modern wearer. These dying arts – like origami and quilting – are so often overlooked by fast fashion-loving consumers.

Will this mark the beginning of a renaissance back to handcrafted luxury over fast fashion? Perhaps not, but the more designers that embrace it, the longer it will take for fashion to move to machine-only craftsmanship.

Looking forward to seeing more from the very talented Yang Fang!

–Jennifer Perusek

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