Personal ambitions and choices aside, every young designer needs their fashionable attitude to be supported by a solid educational foundation in order to find and firmly found their own place in the fashion arena. Temper takes a class with Alla Batiuk, designer and lector at Raffles Design Institute Beijing, and together we preach the au courant fashion cult sermon!
Batiuk’s fashion (design) philosophy finds itself in the idea that you create clothes which will work for people rather than against them. “In China, I see the popularity of fashion shows and the interests of audiences go up when a designer is working with tradition set within the context of personal interpretation and story creation, but this should never copy the looks of days long gone. Personally, I prefer creating novel items that roll out to upgrade the past.” Hear, hear!
Fashionis a labyrinthine industry and thus in many ways the success of a design depends on the designer’s ability to interact with all the particles of the industry’s convoluted body of work. “It is both a disease as well as an obsession; and those working within it often show the tell-tale signs of madness. Let’s face it, without that sprinkling of mad dust, one would find it a rather impossible field to operate in,” Batiuk explains. Nevertheless, and contradictingly so, the fashion framework is also one of the most organized structures around, with everything sufficiently subjected to a rulebook of patterns, stitches and measurements.
Taking into account the industry’s cookiness on all accounts, both Batiuk and Temper respectfully disagree with the generally accepted opinion that only a creative and talented person can become a designer. Creative talent is a must, but in these modern days of geographic mega-urbanization, socio-politico migration, 24/7 avalanches of media snippets and (highly ironic) time-saving gizmo wizardry, it has become the ability to organize and manage your time that can prove your most valuable talent. It’s all become a matter of perception and distribution.
“Following the economic boom, China’s revamped patriotic sentiments sparked a change in the attitude towards domestic designers among Chinese consumers, with many reconsidering their preferences in favor of those ‘home-grown’.” Alla Batiuk
A Deep Sense Of Novelty
Sprouting away, China Fashion is a rapidly developing industry with its own set of peculiarities stemming from society’s internal climate. Braveness, tenacity and confidence, in the eyes and words of Batiuk, are proving the confirmed connecting characteristics linking Raffles China students.
“Europe has a long history in costume design, but at the same time it is history in itself that may this throw up the hurdles for any budding designer. What’s more, when you know the history, the more you understand traditional methods and the harder it may get to create something new. Plus, as a designer starting out, you may simply not have the resources for the formation of something huge. That is why I love being here in Beijing; I enjoy working at Raffles because the spirit of new beginnings without boundaries is practically palpable here!” Batiuk clarifies.
As a consequence of the the 21st Century economic boom, quality of life has improved dramatically across China’s first and second tier cities, enabling people to develop as an individual. Fashion, as it does, in turn reacts to this progress. We have seen this phenomenon moving across Japanese and South Korean societies like a cyclone of positivity in the late 20th Century and are now witnessing its manifestation in China.
Today, China accounts for 45 percent of the luxury market in terms of art, cars and designer clothing. Yet with its growing economic power, the patriotic sentiments within society too have been building up, affecting the choices and preferences of people. As Batiuk puts it, “On a more fashion-focused level, this means a huge number of young Chinese designers are eyeballing China as a ascending bonfire of the fashion vanities in its own right on the international stage. Generally speaking, then, this type of revamped patriotic sentiment has sparked a change in the attitude towards domestic designers among Chinese customers with many beginning to reconsider their preferences in favor of those ‘home-grown’.”
Fashion in China moves within a microclimate of its own, one that is associated with the peculiarities of the nation’s overall economic structure and political system.
A Deep Sense Of Drive
The younger post-80 and -90 generations are a force to be reckoned with in China, representing the nation’s hopes and ambitions. It is this group who best understand that China currently finds itself it is a place where is everything and anything is possible. They have grown up on a high of development and energy, developing a powerful and booming force which is leading China into the global fashion arena.
Batiuk elaborates, “Sankuanz, Ms. Min or Vega Zaishi Wang and Xiao Li are each and every one of them famous designers not just here in China, but across the pond(s) as well. We must always bear in mind that fashion in China too moves within its own microclimate associated with the peculiarities of the nation’s economic and political systems on the whole. These so-called microclimates differ from one country to the next, all the while creating very particular series of conditions for one country’s role in the overall garment industry; they are the forces driving transformation and innovation.”
The overall understanding of fashion is rapidly changing in Chinese society. The term “society” obviously comes with a very complex structure and the Middle Kingdom’s national identity most certainly stars some clear “Made In China 2025” distinctions of its own — now the official Temper line given we “tremble” in the sight of c*ns*rsh*p — which are in turn reflected and noticeable in fashion as well.
To this notion, Batiuk adds, “I think it is also important to remember that many a Chinese student who has received their education abroad does not ‘abandon ship’, but returns to his homeland and focuses on domestic production, both in terms of maintaining and developing it. This highly distinctive trend is observed not only in the fashion industry, but in the realms of technology, engineering and manufacturing at large as well. I personally and firmly believe this tendency will somehow determine the future of China, as well as that of the world — to certain extent.”
Fashion is a reflection of what goes on in any society, at any given time. It’s like the tip of the iceberg, we see it as the external demonstration of a society that absorbs different moods, ideas, social climates, politics, and so on and so forth. Batiuk takes it one step further and says, “Speaking in fashion tongues… I like to think about the future, then, as an unknown and mystical, surprising tool. The way we choose to think about it can provide us with much inspiration and innovation! Just look back at the 1960s, a time we in fashion now refer to as the ‘Space Age’ featuring many designers (Andre Courreges, Pierre Cardin) who were inspired by the first manned flight into outer space. This history-altering event brought catapulted the fashion industry into entirely new stratospheres and resulted in a new beaming spiral of development!”
Circling back to the 21st Century, we can spot the same thing happening right now. We are thinking about the future and it is giving us many ways to interpret fashion in more experimental and innovative (read: sustainable) ways. This global thought is driving fashion design forward. As a logical reflection of our progressively consumption-driven society, design in general is becoming more practical and simple. But with our wardrobes being one of the strongest tools we use to express our thoughts and ideas to the outside world, how do we combine both of these seemingly contradictory ideas?
“Nowadays, the future of our world, especially seen through the prism of a lack in resources, is often up for discussion. Fashion in this respect reacts and interacts, developing together with engineering, biology, technology, etc. Chemistry, for example, is providing new ways to color textiles without wasting the huge amounts of energy and water that are spilled when applying traditional methods,” our lector of the moment points out.
Fashion education develops within you qualities that make you self-critical, give you the ability to uncover ideas primarily in relation to yourself and as a result allow you to create a competitive product that will survive in the market.
A Deep Sense Of Education
Looking back at China’s long history, we see a strong sense of “insider” tradition and culture and not too many hardcore fashion trends — which are often supposed to be influenced and inspired by and from the outside. This little historical fact may somehow explain why during China’s Fashion Week we to this day still watch many designers who prefer to operate in the strict frameworks of the national costume, with the catwalk itself more of a theatrical performance rather than the traditional European idea of a fashion show. Nonetheless, this MO could also be considered a new approach to fashion presentation as a whole… Those costume-lovers might very well be teaching Europeans a lesson or two in the field of dramatization — in that good old-fashioned 1990s Thierry Mugler showy way.
“Fashion education over time develops within you qualities that make you self-critical, give you the ability to uncover ideas primarily in relation to yourself and as a result allow you to create a competitive product that will survive in the market. I think education is key in becoming a true ‘professional’ in the industry. It endows you with a concrete and stable comprehension of the system and structure at play in the business that is fashion. Fashion designers must acquaint themselves with a number of crucial management skills which can be used and applied in the industry in many different ways,” Batiuk concludes.
A number of Batiuk’s little Raffles chicks aim to take their place in the family business — related to the fashion industry — whilst another troop is following the dream of setting up their own label with a strong individual identity. Yang Lu and Yuriko, Sara, Nancy, Cui Tuo and Amber — whose Raffles-curated designs are all featured in the above pictures — are high potentials in the latter case scenario, all of them promising young Raffles Beijing designers in their own right and light. Whereas they may vary greatly in terms of age and goals, they have one thing in common: One by one, they want to know how to become and be a real fashion designer and how to gain the skills to support it. The power of a fashionable foundation will ultimately and inevitably result in panache.
As a student, it is your time to innovate and experiment; it is your time to take a chance and a stance and say to the world: I am here! It is the time to experience pure creative freedom and invest in the future. Your future.
As the Chinese would say，“熟能生巧！” . Or put in layman lingo, “Practice makes perfect!”
Featured Image: Courtesy of Alla Batiuk Design — starring Alla Batiuk!
All images come courtesy Alla Batiuk (IG @alla_batiuk_about) and the following students at Raffles Design Institute Beijing:
First Year Students’ work – “Project Shirt”; Lecturer: Karen Jiang
Students: Amber, Cui Tuo and Nancy
Second Year Students’ work – ” Project Evening Dress”; Lecturer: Svetlana Cheremnykh