Post 105: The CLASH

This final post of my 100th Post Countdown of Shanghai’s Top 5 Sartorial Trends will break down what Shanghai’s style is all about, but first I wanted to point out that I’ve made Maleonn‘s beautiful illustration of 20th Century Chinese Fashion History the background of the blog so you always have it as a reference. And you may also notice that I’ve changed the banner to commemorate this post and the naming of Shanghai’s style: the clash.

The subjects in the new banner all represent this concept of clashing, which is a clothing style that is exactly what it sounds like. You can see people everywhere in Shanghai mixing and matching the most seemingly random and unrelated garments in a sort of surrealist manner… Sometimes it looks crazy or just plain silly, but sometimes it’s absolute genius.

This clothing style is a reflection of the international and diverse nature of Shanghai itself, a place where seemingly opposed views – East vs. West, tradition vs. modernity, convention vs. progress, communism vs. capitalism, native vs. foreign culture, rich vs. poor – mix and manifest sartorially in a mishmash hodgepodge of patterns, fabrics, textures, cuts, and styles.

The ladies who live and work on my street near Xin Tian Di really helped me to solidify this concept of clashing. They always looked great but were in no way conventional with their clothing and I didn’t know how to verbally identify their style… The individual pieces of clothing didn’t seem to match, but it created a pretty interesting composition which had great effect. Take a look and you’ll understand what I mean:

I know it’s a blurry picture, but you get the idea… Every piece of clothing, including her EFPs (elastic forearm protectors), has its own color palette and pattern, and the end result is pretty wild and funky. She separates recycling from trash in the XTD area, but people in all lines of work dress like this in Shanghai.

For example, my local vegetable lady always has the best mixture of patterns:

The lady at the local dry cleaners also has a knack for this style, with flannel pants, printed shirt, and almost-neon hair curlers:

And of course, animal prints are popular and common when clashing.

And you can find clashers everywhere, from the street on a bike…:

…to IKEA…:

…to the bird and flower market:

And speaking of flowers, clashing works really well when with crazy flower prints. For example:

And of course flowers and polka dots mix well with EFPs:

But I mean, almost anything works when clashing… That’s the point!

But not all clashing has to be outrageous… Maybe it’s wild patterns with conservative silhouettes, like this fun yet refined lady:

This lady also has a more refined version of clashing down. Her clothes are very East yet West, vintage yet modern… It’s all about her attitude, and communicating a very singular perception of the world, influenced by subjective experiences and memories. She’s been around the block, she knows what she wants, and she gets it. She also knows how to dress in a way that fits her individual psychological schema (read: ‘style’), something most Chinese people are only starting to explore.

And the young girl checking her out on the right knows this older lady has got style, which is definitely part clash and very Shanghai.

These are the kind of people I hope to see more of in Shanghai as the fashion scene develops and matures… Shanghai, not to mention China, has great culture and history, and this can be reflected in sartorial styles that the West has not created or seen before. Clashing can reflect the tensions between these opposing ideas, cultures, histories, values, beliefs, philosophies, and aesthetics of the diverse residents of Shanghai that all mix in this international city.

What I don’t want to see more of is this:

This is not mixing and matching, and does not represent a diverse, international, nor modern perspective (although she probably thinks she looks it)… Burberry on Burberry on Louis Vuitton does not a modern Westerner make.

What’s even more pitiful is that by dressing like this, she doesn’t communicate anything personal about herself; China’s heritage and her individuality are unfortunately lost in this hot mess of conspicuous logos. She’s like a 21st century Mao-bot, draped and drowning in meaningless logos for the sake of modernity and approval by her fellow comrades.

But the future looks bright thanks to the clash, a distinctly Chinese aesthetic that is inherently diverse. It can create new sartorial meanings and representations in this age of globalization, and it seems like China’s youngsters are catching on to this trend as much as, if not more than, conspicuous consumption. Here is China’s bright sartorial future:

So Chinese people do have style…: the clash!