Chinese designer joins NY fashion exchange

Updated: 2013-06-13 11:54

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily)

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A DJ stood inside the foyer of the hotel room, mixing songs 57 floors above Times Square as drinks and light bites were served and people gathered to greet the guest of honor.

Up-and-coming Chinese clothing designer Masha Ma was fashionably late to the cocktail party held at the newly renovated Times Square-themed Extreme WOW Suite at W New York-Times Square to celebrate her participation in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund's China Exchange Program.

Ma is living in the hotel for the month as the second designer to participate in the China exchange program, which was launched last year and featured emerging designer Uma Wang.

"Masha is so well known and well respected and we're so excited that she's here," said Brooke Travis, director of brand management at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, which oversees the W Hotels Worldwide. The trendy hotel brand has partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to offer a home away from home for designers in the exchange program.

Ma, who lives in Paris, said she specifically requested to focus on the business side of the fashion industry, as she works toward establishing her brand.

"I think it's much easier to see designers in Paris; but to see their team, how they operate, I think was going to be very difficult," Ma said. "This [program in New York] was a valuable chance for me to meet all the people who work with [a brand], see how they operate and how they build up their business."

Ma's catered itinerary began with two days at designer Michael Kors, where she got to see his entire resort line presentation. In 11 days, she has also toured J. Crew, Tommy Hilfiger, Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Vogue, Theory and spent her day prior to the cocktail party with designer Tory Burch.

"I found the Tory Burch team absolutely inspiring," Ma said, peering out from under a black bob with bangs shading one eye. "They're so advanced with their social media, which I really appreciated. I think it's the next generation thing - you won't survive anywhere if you're not doing social media."

Ma said her business is in the beginning stages. Her most recent collection, MASHA MA SS13 "Betta Storm," was shown at Paris Fashion Week in October 2012 and subsequently sold in the Milan-based Spiga 2 boutique - a project by Dolce & Gabanna - and Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong and Istanbul.

Ma became interested in fashion after reading an article about the late Alexander McQueen and got to work as an assistant to the designer before his passing in 2010. Simultaneously, Ma studied at Central Saint Martins in London where she received an M.A. in Women's Wear in 2008.

While in school, Ma's graduate collection was selected and shown at London Fashion Week and purchased by B store - a retail fashion store in London.

When the exchange program is over at the end of June, Ma will travel to Switzerland to check on a new fabric design produced by the same textile company that works for Spanish fashion house Balenciaga, which she plans to debut later this year.

(China Daily USA 06/13/2013 page2)