Text by Zhou Jin
Without bizarre dresses, dyed hair, ormultiple earrings, Kong Fanfan appearslike an ordinary fashionablewoman. No one would finger her fora fashion designer at first sight. However, a poster forDesign Korea, a Chinese-Japanese garment size conversionchart, and several design drafts casually tackedto the wall remind visitors they are in a design studio.
Kong’s studio is not spacious, but clean and neat.Leaning against one wall is a sewing machine flankinga work table, on which lies some of Kong’s half-donework: CDs are strung together to create a futuristic“jade burial suit sewn with gold thread.” The oppositewall is packed with bookcases and clothing racks, andthe space in between is narrow enough to allow onlytwo people to pass by.
Kong was admitted to the Central Academy ofFine Arts (CAFA) in 2002 and graduated in 2010 witha master’s degree in fashion art. Thanks to the eightyears of study at China’s most prestigious art academy,her work is more artistic, like a synthesis of art,fashion, and design.
Kong’s design career began in 2006, when Lu Yue,then dean of the Fashion Art Department of CAFA,organized a graduate exhibition themed “Cheongsamof the 1930s,” sponsored by the popular brand ShanghaiTang. Kong’s creation, “The Eaten One,” astonishedboth her teacher and peers. Constructed withsilver leather, her “half-tailored cheongsam” seemedfar from a practical garment.
“I was thinking whether the cheongsam is onlyrelated to the human body through ‘dressing’,” Kong explains her concept while displaying supporting documentationon an iPad. “As a designer, I tried to breakconventional form and use ‘integration’ to interpretthe relationship between the cheongsam and the humanbody. My aim was to allow the culturally-saturatedgarment to become infused with the body. In otherwords, the human body is sculpted by history, and canalso be destroyed by history.”
This bold creation was praised by Dean Lu Yue,who attributed Kong’s design to thorough contemplationof fashion art.