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Useless-Design by Ma Ke


Amidst the controversy and the clichés, one can sometimes forget that China is also a country with a rich ancestral spiritual tradition. A tradition that can sometimes resurface in the most surprising places, like in the work of one of China’s most successful designers: Ma Ke. Following her intuition of creating simple organic designs using sustainable fabrics and hand made artisan production, Ma Ke has fashioned two unique collections. Launched in 1996, Exception de Mixmind is a line of sophisticated minimalist daywear distributed in 58 namesake stores and corners throughout China. Ma Ke’s latest endeavour Wu Yong (Useless) was invited to launch at Paris Fashion Week in 2007 and has since been accumulating accolades from the design and art communities. Ma Ke was awarded the title of ‘Best Asian Fashion Designer’ at the 2007 Elle Style Awards. In 2008 she was invited to show her work at London’s prestigious Victoria&Albert Museum and at Paris Haute Couture Week. She is also the subject of the film “Useless” by Jia Zhang-Ke, a poetic documentary contrasting the artful creation of Ma Ke’s collection with the lives of China’s garment factory

WUYONG 07 by Ma Ke

workers. We caught up with Ma Ke in an online interview.

Eco Fashion World: Where are you now? Can you describe the environment that surrounds you as you’re answering these questions?
Ma Ke: Right now, I am in my design workshop, located in Zhuihai, a beautiful and peaceful city in Southern China. The workshop is embraced by shades of greenery and trees with hundreds of years of history. In the summer afternoon, you can hear the cicada singing and feel the gentle breeze coming through from the widow.


WUYONG 07 by Ma Ke

EFW: How did you get started doing eco fashion?
Ma Ke: Maybe I was born an ecologist. Since I was a child, I’ve loved being in nature, surrounded by animals. My first professional idol was the British female zoologist Jane Goodall when I was seven or eight years old. After reading the story of her orangutan studies in the African jungle, I was eager to become a zoologist like her. I’ve had many animal companions since I was a child, and now I am living with seven grown dogs and three new-born puppies in my workshop. Living with animals brings me a profound understanding of how close and interdependent human beings are with nature. It is very important for establishing my view of creation.

EFW: What are your design and artistic inspirations?
Ma Ke: Nature gives me endless inspiration. You should fill you heart with beauty in the first place, thus you will have a strong desire to share with others.

EFW: How do you operate your eco fashion business?
Ma Ke: I don’t think about ecology when I am doing my works. It’s already integrated into my blood; I follow my heart. I also never think about business, as life is more than business. There are fewer necessities in our life than we think.

EFW: Has the international recognition that you’ve received in the past years changed something for you?
Ma Ke:
The change in me derives from my growth and exceeding my own limits, it comes from my ongoing thinking, practice and exploration. It has nothing to do with outside recognition.

EFW: What do you think about the production of fashion in China today? Will other designers be inspired to get into sustainable production in the short term, or do you think China has to go through the same cycle as western countries have in the 20th century?
Ma Ke: The fashion industry’s history in China is much shorter than that in the West, it’s only 30 years old. However, China has a rich costume and cloth culture. Our traditional wisdom should lead Chinese people towards a different development from the Western industrial pattern. We have seen the disadvantages that have been brought about in the industrial society; China doesn’t have to follow the same old way.

WUYONG 07 by Ma Ke


EFW: How would you describe the difference between your two collections, Exception and Wuyong?
Ma Ke: EXCEPTION provides everyday clothing, practical but not conventional, it’s like the fresh air. WUYONG is a way of sharing my thinking and understanding of the world, it’s soul-refinement.

EFW: Who would you like to see wearing your clothes? Do you have any style icons?
Ma Ke: Anyone who shares my values and who loves these cloths. I don’t have any style icons.

EFW: How do you see your collection evolving in the future?
Ma Ke: Let it be. I don’t make plans or figures. The value of WUYONG does not show on its own, but its benefit to society is my biggest satisfaction. There should always be some people who enjoy doing what is not profit driven.


EXCEPTION reusable bag

EFW: Would you share any of your favorite sustainable tips?
Ma Ke: I admire vegetarians who practice earnestly for their self-cognition instead of some “concept”. They are sincere to themselves and others.

EFW: Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Ma Ke:
If you agree with me, please join in and make a difference. Words are meaningless in front of our actions.

Images by Mixmind Click here to see more spectacular black and white pictures of Wu Yong by photographer Zhou Mi.

Comments (4)Add Comment
Great blog
written by Dagny, September 15, 2008
I agree with Ma Ke that China has the opportunity to learn from the west's mistakes. By setting an example for how clothes can be produced, she is inspiring others to follow the same path.

bamboo clothing
Words are meaningless in front of our actions.
written by ehakobyan, December 17, 2008
Really in love with Ma Ke's art and outlook. She is doing some kind of work which has not strict definitions and limitis. ----isms are not for her. She creates what she feels, which is the best way to be totally sincere with people. Great interview and great interpretations! Thanks a lot to the author.
written by ClubPenguinCheats, April 28, 2010
By setting an example for how clothes can be produced, she is inspiring others to follow the same path.
News Anchor/Executive Producer. Media Psychologist @ LCM, Atlanta, GA USA
written by Lisa Campbell, February 14, 2011
I love love LOVE this designers work - and would LIVE in her clothes.. INSPIRING! Thanks for this article. LC

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