Silk suits fashion designer to a tea

Updated: 2013-10-28 07:28

By Daniel Garst (China Daily)

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The 2013 Beijing International Design Week provided yet more evidence of the capital's emergence as a center for independent fashion design. To help kick off the design week, the Beijing-based German designer Kathrin von Rechenberg unveiled her new Fall/Winter Line with a show at the inauguration of "The Cocoon" in the exclusive Hotel Eclat at Parkview Green.

"I'm passionate about tea silk," Rechenberg tells me, as we chat before the show. The Taiwan fashion designer Sophia Hong introduced the Munich-born Rechenberg to tea silk, and this fabric, along with her Chinese husband from Wuhan, brought her to China in 2000.

Rechenberg says: "I buy silk from all over China, but there is only one place, the small city of Daliang in Guangdong, that prepares the fabric in the traditional tea silk way." That preparation involves dyeing the silk up to 40 times in tea and other organic ingredients and, after each dyeing, spreading it out on the grass to dry in the sun. During this process, the silk is covered with mud, giving it a unique papyrus texture. This special sheen also becomes glossier and more lustrous with age.

 Silk suits fashion designer to a tea

Models show off creations from German designer Kathrin von Rechenberg's new Fall/Winter Line. Photos provided to China Daily

Silk suits fashion designer to a tea

"Each new line of clothing highlights a color and design concept inspired by some Chinese source," says Rechenberg. "My 2013 Summer Line had red as its signature color, the clothing design drew inspiration from photos of the wooden pillars and beams at the Forbidden City."

Blue and green are the signature colors of the 2013 Fall/Winter Line, and its design is inspired by the work of the Taiwan ceramic artist Lin Zhimen, who uses cracked ash to create and draw out novel colors and patterns in the glazes.

"I've used digital printing," Rechenberg notes, "to magnify the shards of color derived from the cracked ash glazes." While explaining this, Rechenberg points to the flecks of red, cobalt blue, and forest green, all echoing semi-precious stones, on a pewter-gray background gracing the front of one of her new Fall/Winter Line creations. The designer then points to the crackled porcelain glaze pattern on the wool felt stitched on to the tea silk of a new waistcoat.

Double-faced cashmere coats with a tea-silk inner lining have long been prominent in Rechenberg's Fall/Winter Line. However, even in these outfits, Rechenberg notes that "the tea silk can also be seen, it's on the coat lapels".

The Fall/Winter Line also retains Rechenberg's trademark understated German chic. After seeing her clothes for the first time, a sportswear designer friend from Berlin declared: "Such clean and simple lines. There's no distraction here." As Rechenberg herself emphasizes, "I always try to get rid of unnecessary things, where other designers add on, I say 'enough!'."

Rechenberg adds that while striving for a "geometrical form" in design, she also wants her outfits to have a "fluid shape" once they are worn. "They should be fluid on the body, yet retain a structure."

This combination of timeless elegant simplicity in design and the very best materials has won Rechenberg a rapidly growing clientele. She says: "Over the past two years, my business has grown by 50 percent." Most of these new customers are Chinese, especially affluent professional women in business and upper management.

One individual who has been especially impressed with Rechenberg's work is the mayor of Daliang. After viewing a friend from the neighboring city of Shunde wearing a Rechenberg-created tea silk male tunic, the mayor contacted the designer to discuss collaborating over tea silk.

"We are naturally very excited about this new development," says Rechenberg. "He's invited us to a conference, wants to display our tea silk in a museum, and is interested in further cooperative ventures."

For Rechenberg this is another important step in realizing her quest to "make high-quality and timeless haute couture with distinctive Chinese characteristics".

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For China Daily

(China Daily 10/28/2013 page22)