Thu, Dec 01, 2005 - Page 13 News List

'Taiwan Red' in vogue

Local designers and artists have adopted the 'traditional color' to help foster a Taiwanese identity

By Ho Yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

The first Taiwanese designers to show off a collection at Paris fashion week, Chien Yu-feng (簡鈺峰) and Shawn Pan (潘伯勳) went back to their cultural roots in search of inspiration for their ready-to-wear designs.

During a trip back home last year, the duo were introduced to a traditional color tone that was often used in folk customs and they then applied it to their Autumn/Winter 2005 collection in Paris.

The "Taiwan Red" series put the pair in the spotlight and gave them the opportunity of becoming the first Asians to design costumes for the Miss France beauty pageant this year.

As a country with a long history of colonization by various nations, Taiwan is now an economically and politically independent entity striving to foster its own unique cultural identity.

Like the recent taike (台客) phenomenon, in which a younger generation took pride in the once defamatory term, the promotion of Taiwan Red signifies a renaissance of Taiwanese culture and introduces our local culture to international communities.

The brainchild of National Cultural Association (文化總會) Secretary-General Tchen Yu-chiou (陳郁秀), Taiwan Red materialized after a year-long collaboration with international designer Chen Jun-liang (陳俊良) and the color was then shown to designers Chien Yu-feng and Shawn Pan for them to use.

It is a festival color that symbolizes joy and happiness.

The color's code on the standard printing color chart is M100 and Y10, and it has a peachy pink tone. Shoutao (壽桃), the birthday bun shaped like the peaches of longevity in Chinese legend, have that dab of Taiwan Red on the tip. Red boiled eggs celebrate the first month after a baby's birth; while traditional red turtle cakes (紅龜粿) are common festival snacks in Taiwanese families. Traditional Hakka quilts are also made in this color.

To Chen Hsiu-huei (陳秀惠), the vice secretary-general of the association the color has value because it is part of our collective memory.

"My generation grew up impoverished. I remember when I was little, my mom would go to temples in plain clothes but she always insisted on wearing a dab of red on her lips and cheeks. So to me, the color represents hope in a time of scarcity," Chen said.

Taiwan Ang Co (台灣紅創意設計有限公司) Chairman Ligi Lee (李琪) agreed. "Taiwan Red is the embodiment of our childhood memories, resonating with everything that is joyful and celebratory."

Now that baby boomers have grown up, their shared memories represent a sense of Taiwanese-ness. To people in their 40s and 50s, the color conjures up a smell, and images of family celebrations and festivities.

"The color is to Taiwan as the Christmas spirit is to Westerners," Lee said. Born and raised in an old and wealthy family in Keelung, Lee emigrated to Australia. To Lee, Taiwan Red captures the essence of Taiwan and helps the country gain international recognition.

As a designer and artist, Lee quickly answered the call from Tchen to build the country's international image through its cultural and creative industries.

Lee established her company Taiwan Ang in July and set up showrooms in the World Trade Center and at the Grand Hyatt in Taipei. She has since worked with several local artists and developed lines of products aiming to make Taiwan Ang a global brand name.

For designers Chien and Pan, traditional elements need to be cut, torn up and reconstructed to appeal to modern sensibilities. In their hands, the lines and shapes of peonies, traditional bridal cakes and red turtle cakes are transformed into asymmetrical patterns on flouncy dresses dripping down on the runway.

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