In the light and leafy atrium of the Sheraton Taipei the country's most successful fashion designer, Shiatzy Chen (王陳彩霞), showed off her latest collection. It was a bright, breezy and youthful show that epitomized what has been called "neo-Chinese chic," full of mix-and-match outfits in satin and silk.
The stated aim of the fall-winter show was to court a new generation of buyers and the upmarket audience on Monday clearly enjoyed what it saw. Chen's been in the business for over a quarter of a century and the consensus seemed to be that she is getting trendier with age.
New elements were introduced, such as the neon green, pink and yellow miniskirts that were intricately patterned with Chinese motifs. The headline outfit was a delicate shoulderless lime-green creation overlaid with gauzy, black see-through lace and tiny diamante flourishes, which came with a matching handbag.
There were traditional collarless and Mandarin-collared shirts for the men in blue, black or white, beautifully tailored and shaped to the body. Jackets were made of linen, cotton, silk and leather and were embroidered with flowers, butterflies and dragonfly patterns. These embellishes were sparingly applied and stood out even more. Bright yellow, pink and green trousers with a satin sheen set off the ensembles.
As for the ladies, the overall look was Oriental and feminine. There was the signature brocade work and bright hems in contrasting colors. The addition of pleats to the skirts gave a slightly puffed-out look, creating an impression of floating down the catwalk.
Dresses in shimmering silver came to just above the knee. Others were taken in at the waist to emphasize the slighter Asian figure. Trousers were colorful and form-fitting, shorter than is usual in the West. Accessories included jewelled high heels, beaded bags and long pearls reminiscent of 1920s Shanghai poster girls.
Speaking after the show, Chen told the Taipei Times that despite her presence in Paris and sales of knitwear and ready-to-wear in the world's major centers, her primary goal at present is to satisfy the Asian market, not Europe or America.
Chen entered the Chinese market in 2003 in Shanghai and last year opened up further stores in Hong Kong and Beijing. Her company's business plan is to open in Tokyo and have 50 shops on the Mainland by 2010. This is in addition to the 47 outlets she already has in Taiwan. The company presently has over 200 employees and manufactures more than 70,000 items of clothing each year.
"In June we will be having a soft opening in Shanghai and in August there will be the formal opening of a stand-alone building in Shanghai that will be our flagship store there. I'm excited about this," Chen said.
Regarding her most recent collection, Chen was all smiles and confirmed that she had designed it with a younger audience in mind.
"Yes, over the past seasons our clothes have been positioned at a younger audience. Some of these younger women come because of their mothers, who are already established clients. We have combined Western and Chinese elements. Chinese colors are brighter, but the Western cutting style is better and as a result our clothes are more fashionable and modern."
Unusual for fashion designers these days, Changhua-born Chen was not formally educated in the industry but learned her trade by working at her uncle's factory. She met her husband Wang Yuan-hong (王元宏), a smart businessman in the textile trade, and together they founded Shiatzy International Company Limited in 1978, over which they maintain total control.