Fashion and Passion

By Katherine Zhao 《That’s GUANGZHOU》August 2002

Introducing liu yang…
_“One of China’s best fashion designers”_Asahi News,Japan,1995
_“One of the world’s outstanding young fashion designers”_Elle magazine,1997
_ Among Guangzhou’s Ten Outstanding Young People of 1999
_Attended ten 1999 Paris Culture Week as China’s top fashion desingner
_Soon to attend ten Trendy Beijing Fashion Gala on 23 August wite teb World’s top ten fashion brands,e.g.Christian Dior and Kenzo
Liu yang is a walking contradiction. This world-famous fashion designer’s hometown is a sleepy backwater in central China’s Henan province. In his middle school days, his idol was hero Lei Feng whose good deeds he aimed to emulate while sporting non-state approved flared trousers . In 1987 he was elected as one of ten top 52 students of China’s art universities-and dyed his hair red and yellow .And when he was named one of Cuangzhou’s Ten Outstanding Young People of 1999,his explosive afro made him more outstanding than ever.
While these quirks would raise few eyebrows in the West ,in China they are considered controversial an best, and at worst marks of the seriously maladjusted .Perhaps that goes some way towards explaining why China ,though not lacking fashion ideas, fails to muster up the courage to lead trends.Liu Yang wants to change all that.
“My objective is to let people know by my own behaviour that someone who does dress in the traditional way can also be a good person .Dressing can be much more liberalized and colorful than people accept now,”he says.Liu’s objective is to design lifestyle, not just clothes .His fashions are not simply created in the studio with a pen or pair of scissors -a beam of light,a scrap of melody or a scene form nature can all be sources of inspiration. Now splitting his time between China and New York ,the young designer enjoys driving fast in Manhattan and chasing wind and waves in his yacht. But Liu’s heart still seems attached to Cuangzhou ,even to its less attractive characteristics .”Although Guangzhou is a polluted city, every time I come back from New York I take a deep breath .The polluted air is so familiar I find it comforting.”
Success and fame can come for various reasons. Liu is the kind who has a born gift for his profession .At the age of seven ,he converted his mother’s wedding souvenir ,a red scarf ,into a pair of small trousers decorated with white strings torn from a mask .His punishment ? Luckily for him , Liu was also blessed with encouraging parents. His mother gave him a loving smile and a gift of five fen .
The ups and downs of life saw Liu crouched a room of six square metres opposite a public toilet for four malodorous years. Undeterred, he worked on . After graduating from the Cuangzhuo Academy of Arts, he set up his own fashion company in 1991, only to see it nearly wiped out by unscrupulous staff who left him with only RMB80. Frustration drove him close to suicide .For years he slept badly, and after his fashion show he collapsed backstage .Half a year in a hospital followed.
But Liu has cleared every hurdle life can throw at him .“I’m not the type who can enjoy sitting in a quaint European café for the rest of my life . That’s why I chose New York to live and to work,” he says.“It’s got a melting-pot atmosphere where the meeting of different cultures generates all sorts of exciting fashion ideas.” He’s had his days of wearing green contact lenses, wrapping his head with a Chinese silk scarf, and sporting the most avantgarde suit this side of Istanbul on the T stage .
Your impression of LiuYang depends on where you happen to come across him .In the Leipzig fashion show he dressed conservatively in suit and glasses for his formal reception by the mayor . Thanking the audience after one of his model shows, he is every inch a top model himself , attired in his own distinctive fashions . Grateful to his parents for the tall figure he inherited , Liu is also fortunate in his striking featues, which have helped him in countless other ventures . In 1996 he starred in a ten-episode TV drama . the first in China to have the theme of fashion .“When I was a child I dreamed of being a fashion designer , a movie star ,a painter and a musician .I am glad that now I have achieved all of them .” Liu says happily .
Since his first taste of fame at age 19, LiuYang’s name has dominated China’s fashion industry .Among a long list of shining titles ,he is the youngest professor at Guongzhou Institute of Textiles .On campus ,he is frequently mistaken for a student and asked ,“Where is the famous professor Liu ?” Liu is still fresh-faced-only33 this year .His current dream is international recognition for his two brands,the youthful Reflash and more mature L’Hermet .Meanwhile ,his second TV drama ,for which he is both actor and costume designer , is underway .Any other ambitions ? Liu’s also planning to release his first music album .
“I may not and don’t have to be a great actor or singer , but it is fantastic to experience what it is like to act and to sing,” he says .But unlike other renaissance men and women , Liu does know when to stop .“I do everything because of true passion. If something is no longer fun and enjoyable , I will give up .”