‘From Xuan to Blindness’ at Royal College of Art

Rui Xu

Rui Xu, a Chinese fashion designer from Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, is revitalising the spirit of the ancient Chinese literati or Chinese high society in her Haute Couture. Like her peers, such as Laurence Xu, Shang-Xia, Zhang Huishan and Pei Guo, who have already received international recognition because of the Chinese styles in their design, Rui Xu is an emerging Couturier who also rediscovers the links between current fashion and Chinese tradition.

In Rui Xu’s forthcoming fashion exhibition ‘From Xuan to Blindness’ at Royal College of Art (21-30 August, 2015), the designer will present her definitive idea about beauty and authenticity of ‘Chineseness’. Her experience of more than 20 years as a practitioner of traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy tempers a more cautious application of typical Chinese elements of pattern and embroidery on her garments. Instead, Rui Xu desires to take the best of the cultural and historic legacy of China and translate it to become relevant to today’s high fashion wearers. 

My ambition is to revive the spirit of the ancient Chinese literati society in today’s fashion. I want to bring the loftiness and luxury of Chinese noblemen and noblewomen and empower the spiritual freedom to the wearer of my garments’ claimed the designer. Indeed, Rui Xu’s design is deeply influenced by Chinese philosophy, in particular Taoism’s ‘Naturalness’ and ‘Nonaction’. If it sounds ambiguous, it is. But in simple words, Rui Xu wants to present the high culture of China, rather than its well-known Chinatown culture.

Rui Xu
Rui Xu

Referring to the Chinese literati society who once took dressing as a recreational pastime like painting and music, Xu fuses the witty and playful essence into her design. For example, in the first part of the exhibition, audience will see a lower garment from her Red-Dot-Design-Award-winning’ Xiang Wang Yi’ series, which is a skirt with four trouser legs, merging the boundaries and structures of clothing, and strongly contrasting with the western style of strict tailoring.

Rui Xu’s emphasis on skills and textile innovation will be proved in her design collection in collaboration with Dr Kinor Jiang, a textile specialist and artist at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, in the third part of the exhibition. Audience will have the opportunity to look closely at the fine fabrics, which capture the splendid moment of metal burning, enabled by techniques of metal plating onto delicate natural textiles. Rui Xu, who studied fashion both in China and the UK, also points to her brand’s modernity or even post-modernity. In the second part of the exhibition, Xu will show the audience her composite artworks, in which she combines the fashion language into landscape fantasy through a contemporary practice.

Rui Xu’s design is always a fusion and dialogue of the east and the west fashion, reflecting how they understand and misunderstand each other.  She is loyal to traditional Chinese non-structural shape whilst borrows the western collar shape and fascinated on exquisite tailoring of details. The large scale of her garments is reminiscent of both western brands such as Maison Margiela and the Chinese Emperor’s court robe at V&A museum. Rui Xu has explored the dynamic between the sobriety of traditional Chinese taste and the exuberance and freedom of western fashion culture.

As China is moving toward the centre of the world’s fashion design stage, Rui Xu has just launched her own studio in London’s South Kensington. Rui Xu chooses to celebrate the confidence of a new fashion culture with a style that is unique to her own tradition in the competitive fashion world of London.

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