27 September 2018 -

Report: DHS Research Publication Grant by Wessie Ling

I was delighted to be awarded the Design History Society Research Publication Grant - my deepest gratitude goes to the Society. The funding went towards covering the copyediting fees for the edited volume Fashion in Multiple Chinas: Chinese Styles in the Transglobal Landscape (with Simona Segre Reinach, I.B Tauris, 2018).

The volume examines the making of fashion in different Chinese cultures - Chinese diaspora, Hong Kong, Singapore, and continental China. It studies the trajectories and boundary shifting of post-1970s Chinese fashion. The period covered goes from the 'open door' policy and economic reform, initiated by Deng Xiaoping, to China's present day. The volume interrogates the multiple cultures and identities in a Chinese context and their political trajectories. The notion of Chinese fashion is scrutinised not only in its most common readings - 'Made in China' as synonymous with cheap products and copies of Western fashion - but rather as a complex, ambivalent process entwined with economy and socio-culture, shaping present-day global fashion at an exponential rate. Here, Chinese fashion is considered a new interconnecting force of the global, the transnational, and the diaspora. The aim is to piece together disparate experiences and, at the same time, focus on their intimate differences.

Recent years have seen an inclusive approach to the studies of design history. The Eurocentric orientation has gradually been moved away. The volume challenges not only mainstream fashion discourse, but also existing models (e.g. orientalism, exoticism, neo-colonialism, or centre/periphery) to study fashion in non-Western settings. It tackles the plurality of China: Chinese nationalism as 'one-nation' is confronted with the various realities in China. Although China is commonly referred to as a single reality, our study of Chinese fashion reveals diversity and multiple practices. Through the varied perspectives of the contributors, each covering a different geographical area and a distinct topic, China is interpreted, collectively in the volume, as a complex site of cultural interaction in fashion.

The historically-grounded essays in the volume extend these topics to offer both a critical definition of global fashion and analysis of China as a multi-disciplinary subject, and a multi-dimensional site within the global arena. What is explored includes inter-Asian and East-West cultural dynamics that reveal specific fashion trajectories, shaping not only a new geography of fashion, but also a new approach to writing fashion histories. We hoped to achieve a balance of theory, history, ethnography and discourse analysis, and demonstrate the many other models that can be used to study Chinese fashion.

Volume contributors include Hazel Clark, Antonia Finnane, Xin Gu, Wessie Ling, Simona Segre-Reinach, Anne Peirson-Smith, Juanjuan Wu, Jianhua Zhao, all of whom specialise in the field of Chinese fashion studies, while research methods include a combination of archival studies, ethnographies, qualitative interviews, case studies, and participatory observations. The fieldwork conducted as primary research for individual chapters further enriches the volume.

This is the first academic work in book form dedicated entirely to the making of Chinese fashion. Revealed within the study is a process that often involves a borderless entanglement from manufacturing to circulation, and from retailing to branding, through which we collectively dissect the various components of 'Chinese' identities in Chinese fashion.

Wessie Ling
Northumbria University, Newcastle

Join Dr. Wessie Ling at her book launch event, scheduled for 15 November 2018, and taking place at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. The event includes a discussion between Dr. Wessie Ling and Professor Christopher Breward, followed by a book signing. Click to find out more


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