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China Institute Fashion Design Competition adds sustainability for 2020

By Jackie Mallon


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Supporting emerging designers and promoting creativity inspired by Chinese culture and aesthetics remained a priority even during a pandemic year. But, this year, China Institute’s Fashion Design Competition introduced a sustainability component to promote socially conscious and environmentally friendly fashion. Eight students or recent graduates, many who have already undertaken international journeys to arrive at this point participated in the runway event, defying the limitations of lockdowns and lack of access to materials to produce a capsule collection that harmoniously blended their Chinese roots with their unique world views.

Parsons students dominated among China Institute Fashion Design Competition finalists

The 2020 finalists were: Parsons grad Qizhen Han; Anqi Jiang, Beijing-born graduate of New York City’s FIT; Olivia Shen, American-born-Chinese designer hailing from both Michigan and Shanghai, studying at Rhode Island School of Design; Ruohan Nie, born in Tianjin, who moved to Paris to pursue design, then relocated to New York City to attend Parsons; Francia Ramirez, knitwear specialist originally from Mexico who spent a year in Italy, currently in her final year at FIT; Zineb Sabir al-Maslouhi who graduated from Casa Moda Academey in Morocco; Beijing-born Parsons grad Mianchen Wang, and Yaqi Zhang who is currently completing her BFA, also at Parsons.

Each year three rounds of evaluation begin with the judges’ review of all applications from which they select the top 25, which is then whittled down to 10, each of whom are given a $300 stipend to produce their collections. In the third round, the selected finalists present their work at China Institute and a winner is chosen based on their creativity, quality of execution, and effectiveness in expressing the contest theme. This year’s judging panel consisted of Hazel Clark, Professor of Design Studies and Fashion Studies at Parsons School of Design; Bill Donovan, fashion illustrator, and Dior’s artist-in-residence; Kyunghee Pyun, Associate Professor at FIT; and Mary Wang, fashion writer and editor.

This year’s pre-recorded runway show presented three looks from each designer and was followed by a zoom discussion on the topic, “Chinese Fashion Goes Green: A Conversation with Fashion Leaders,” between Jinqing Cai, President of Kering Greater China, and Simon Collins, global design authority on sustainability, education and the Chinese market.

Winner of China Institute Design Competition awarded 10000 dollars

The winners were announced in reverse order: Second runner-up, Francia Ramirez, who earned an internship with a not-yet disclosed designer, impressed the judges with her commentary on the Silicon Valley of China which incorporated upcycled fabrics. First runner-up prize of 5000 dollars was awarded to Yaqi Zhang whose minimalist collection interpreting pregnancy and postpartum health in a neutral palette used deadstock fabric sourced at Fabscrap. The winning candidate was fellow Parsons student Ruohan Nie whose collection based on her first camping experience and involving zero-waste patternmaking earned her 10,000 dollars and the following praise from judge Mary Wang: “What we really admired was the attention to detail to every aspect of the garment. The silhouettes were deceptively simple but they were expertly draped and tailored. The textiles were sourced with care, each representing their own specific story, and they came together in a beautiful, coherent whole.”

Photos by Nina Edwards. Collections in order of photos by Qizhen Han, Anqi Jiang, Francia Ramirez, Yaqi Jiang and Ruohan Nie.

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry

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