Finding Joy in Han Couture
Gong Biqiong’s years of thankless work over needle, belt, button, buckle and jade finally paid off recently, when she was given a prestigious award for excellence in traditional Chinese clothing design—at the preeminent competition in that field, no less.
The 3rd Global Han Couture Design Competition hosted by New Tang Dynasty Television was held at Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City on Oct. 16. More than 70 fashion designers gathered from around the world presented Han Chinese clothing designs in Tang (618–907), Song (960–1279) and Ming (1368–1644) dynasty styles.
Special garment matching award winner Gong Biqiong said that carefully appreciating a traditional Han outfit, from head to toe, in combination, is like appreciating a perfect painting or a beautiful poem.
Gong has served in the garment industry for more than 10 years. As a fashion designer in Philadelphia, she also won the Silver Award in NTDTV first annual Global Han Couture Design Competition.
She indicated that her journey in searching Han ethnic designs have been hard, challenging, but full of joy.
Though she faces the reality that she is unable to make a living designing Han ethnic clothes, she still longs to be a designer in the Han couture tradition.
“In the apparel industry, for business concerns, you only consider whether the style is welcome or popular in the market,” She said. “However, the wish to design Han couture to me comes entirely from my heart.
“Chinese couture culture has a history and its own profound meaning. Designing Han styles allows me to portray the most beautiful painting, according to my own aesthetic view,” Gong said.
Gong Biqiong said her first step in preparing for a competition was to look for ideas through searching the Internet, reading books, observing traditional costumes designed by other designers on TV series, and searching her own thoughts. Considerations include the color of the belt, the cut of the jade, and the overall color coordination of the ensemble.
She also explained that she’s been searching for the appropriate fabrics since last year, through several rounds of screening, selection and improvement. She is a one woman dynamo who cuts, sews, nails, and fastens by herself.
“The selection of the color and fabric of the man’s clothes has to be very detailed and strict. Coordination of the outfit definitely starts from the matching hat. It requires perfection in the coordination of color and style of hat, the white inner shirt, pants, robe, and boots. The entire set has to reach perfection in all aspects,” she said.
Truly appreciating traditional Han couture requires knowledge of ancient Chinese design, techniques, and especially the ancient concept of attaining harmony between the heaven and man, Gong said. This concept of harmony between man and heaven is expressed in the selection and combination of color and style, and the harmonious coordination therein. The patterns used in her designs have been passed down for thousands of years, she said, adding that they are both classical and elegant.
“The process of preparing for this competition has been very challenging. I’ve sometimes felt like giving up,” Gong said. “I was only able to keep going because I love it.”