Visiting Shanghai

Shanghai Fashion Week, 2014

If I was a much younger man looking for metropolitan thrills and a glimpse of a future self, I think that Shanghai might be my choice of escape. New York and Berlin (the destinations for my generation) seem so twentieth-century by comparison.

Last week I joined colleagues from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) – in the schools of Design and History of Art – and London College of Fashion (LCF) as guests of Donghua University to explore the fashion history and contemporary design cultures of this fascinating city.

This year the School of Design at ECA has launched an international teaching and research partnership with Donghua as part of their evolving Shanghai College of Fashion (a new innovation centre supporting an industrial fashion quarter in the city’s garment district). As part of this we are engaging in a three-year research project with LCF examining the cultural identity of Shanghai as a global fashion city.

As part of this collaboration with Donghua University, two ‘Flying academics’ from the School of Design (Elena Tsyplokova from Fashion and Rachel Simmonds from Interior Design) are currently at Shanghai College of Fashion, teaching the students for the next 5 weeks.  They will return to Shanghai again in the spring to teach another course to the Fashion and Interior Design students.

“The School of Design at Edinburgh College of Art is thrilled that Shanghai College of Fashion and Innovation has admitted its first students to their Fashion Innovation and Fashion Interior Design programmes. We are looking forward to this academic partnership blossoming over the forthcoming years.”

Dr Juliette MacDonald, Head of the School of Design at ECA

Chris Breward in Shanghai

Chris Breward in Shanghai

Funded by the Ministry of Education in China, colleagues including Professor Bian Xiangyang (Donghua), Professor Zhong Hong (Donghua), Professor Liu Yu (Donghua), Djurdja Bartlett (LCF), Agnes Rocamora (LCF), Anja Cronberg (LCF/Vestoj), Chia-Ling Yang (ECA) and Juliette MacDonald (ECA) will work together from the perspectives of cultural history, art history, sociology, design history, curation and contemporary journalism, and fashion writing to explore the city’s development, international connections and future visions.

We enjoyed a full programme of lectures, workshop discussions, fashion shows, archival work, exhibition visiting and, of course, shopping. And we look forward to producing articles, conferences, exhibitions, digital projects and other publications as outcomes.

Didier Grumbach, President of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, was controversially quoted in Vestoj as stating “There will never be a Chinese fashion. There are no fashion designers in China.”

Our project lays down the gauntlet to such outmoded imperialists. And to that we say: “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

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