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Useless-Design by Ma Ke

USELESS-THUMBNAIL.jpg 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 workers. We caught up with Ma Ke in an online interview.

China Catches the Flame

CHINA-PULSE.jpg The Olympics, Free Tibet, environmental pollution and an economic growth of 10% per year: China is full of contradictions. But when it comes to ethical production, China surprises us with some exciting developments.

First up is the April launch of the Sustainable Fashion Business Forum (SFBF); eleven Hong Kong clothing manufacturers have teamed up with the Clothing Industry Training Authority (CITA) to share information and devise new ways to make the trade more environmentally friendly. The group supplies big brands such as Marks & Spencer, Gap and H&M and has several essential items on the agenda. One of them is to set up a carbon accounting standard in collaboration with WWF Hong Kong.

Bamboo and Kicks

BAMBOO_THUMBNAIL.jpg No issue on Chinese sustainable fashion would be complete without a bit of bamboo! Touted as a green fabric with hypoallergenic and thermo-regulating capacities the real story on bamboo is a little more complex; although it’s true that the plant itself is a sustainable product by virtue of its fast natural growth, the transformation process can often be very polluting. This article from the great blog Organic Clothing will give you the full picture. And if you want to do bamboo right, here are our hottest bamboo picks from eco designers worldwide! To complement our favorite bamboo pieces we’ve thrown in some sporty kicks as a wink to the Olympics.

Nest Shanghai

nestsmall.jpg Finding a sustainable shop in China is no easy feat. Despite the ethical progress in some factories, Chinese customers are still hard pressed to find retail points for eco fashion in their country.

But, venture to the second floor of the International Artist Factory in the thriving arts and shopping district of Taikang in Shanghai, and a lovely surprise awaits you! An inviting, light, newly renovated 100sq meter loft space opens up, full of wonderful and unique creations. You’ve arrived at Nest, a brand new store devoted to the celebration of conscious design.

The China Issue, September 2008

In Imperial China, the emperor was the only one who could wear the color yellow or gold. Today, gold has become the defining color of this rising nation, whether as a symbol of China’s new wealth, prompted by its fast economic development, or the Olympic gold that has attracted so much media scrutiny to that part of the world in the last few years.

With one fifth of the global market share, China is also the world’s top garment producer. For a long time avoiding the “made in China” label was one of the first steps one would take in the journey towards a more ethical wardrobe. However, international pressure, driven partly by the Olympics and the Play Fair 2008 campaign, and the increasing consumer demand for ethically produced fashion is starting to have an impact on the nation’s industry, read about it in China Catches the Flame.

Of course ethical production is a key aspect of sustainability, but what about ecological fabrics? See how some of our favorite eco designers worldwide are using China’s bamboo to create gorgeous fashions that take you from day to night.

But China isn’t all production and no creation, meet visionary designer Ma Ke who’s been wowing the international fashion community with her poetic clothes and holistic vision of sustainable design.

And if you happen to be Shanghai bound in the near future, find refuge and an ethical shopping haven at Nest, China’s first multi-brand sustainable shopping destination!

As always we love to hear your opinion, so leave us your comments…or send us a postcard!

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