NANNING — At the Nanning Museum, located in South China”s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, a striking black pleated skirt adorned with vibrant ethnic design elements has been a crowdpuller, with tourists flocking in to take photos.
This creation has been designed by renowned Milanese designer Giancarlo Mossi Borella, and is a standout feature of the museum’s collection.
Borella’s design is a creative fusion of Western fashion art and elements from ethnic groups in China. Drawing inspiration from the intricate customs of these groups, he incorporated their aesthetics into the dress.
One notable feature of the dress is its black color, which holds significance for certain ethnic group communities. To pay homage to this tradition, Borella chose to incorporate this color into the design. The dress also boasts pleated outer yarn on the top and lower skirt, adding a delightful texture to the garment.
To further enhance its cultural authenticity, he decorated the dress with handicraft belts, headdresses and accessories that are emblematic of these ethnic groups.
“Before designing this dress, we were inspired by Guangxi’s Zhuang brocade, and it took me two weeks to choose the color to match the belt pattern. It can be said that we (Italy) make the house of the concept but you (China) made the heart of the house,” says Yosmany Larrea, Borella’s assistant.
Borella and Larrea share an appreciation for ethnic cultures, and they first learned about Guangxi’s ethnic groups back in 2018.
In December 2019, they led a team of Italian designers to Nanning and Longzhou to witness firsthand the skills of the Zhuang people in creating brocade fabrics.
“I was shocked on arriving at the workshop and I felt like I stepped into a magical land. Weaving skills are good, and Zhuang brocade is beautiful. I also touched the materials. At that time, I hoped to bring Zhuang brocade elements into my design immediately,” Borella says.
During the visit, Borella was impressed by the skills of local people in creating brocade fabrics and their rich cultural heritage.
He felt inspired to incorporate these ethnic elements into his design and share them with the world, as a way to promote and preserve this valuable aspect of Chinese culture.
Larrea says in China’s ethnic group areas, ethnic culture and art are deeply intertwined with people’s daily lives and production practices. According to her, the Zhuang brocade is not only a form of culture but also a carrier of culture.
He Ka, head of Guangxi Jinzhuangjin Culture and Art, has been actively engaged in promoting the local ethnic culture to the world. To achieve this goal, He has worked closely with Borella and his team, fostering a productive exchange and cooperation between them.
He’s company has forged a collaboration with the China-Italy Cultural Exchange Association and Italian designers to establish the Guangxi Zhuang brocade brand operation team and create their own brand, Donna Hecca. Registered in both China and Italy, this brand encompasses a range of products, including clothing and accessories.
The exhibition hall of He’s company showcases a variety of handbag samples. “We use raw materials with distinctive ethnic characteristics that are sourced from China. Borella and his team design the products, which are then produced in Italy,” He says.
“Italy boasts a wealth of cultural and artistic heritage, while Guangxi is renowned for its ethnic culture. By combining these two cultures, we can break free from traditional design concepts and create a new fusion that integrates design elements from China and foreign countries,” He adds.
Donna Hecca now plans to expand its product line to include perfume under the same brand. Guangxi is rich in raw materials suitable for perfume production, making it an ideal location for sourcing ingredients, He explains.
Currently, two teams from China and Italy are in touch through online communication to determine patterns, styles, fabrics and other details.
According to Borella, the Zhuang brocade has a promising market in Europe.
By using modern design concepts to present the culture and history of Chinese ethnic groups to Western consumers, they would further promote the ethnic culture represented by the Zhuang brocade in Europe, He adds.
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