Wednesday 7 December 2016

China's First Lady: A fashion tour de force

Lisa Armstrong

Published 01/04/2013 | 11:46

Peng Liyuan, who has been wowing the fashion fraternity this week

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The 50-year-old former singer has made the airport staircase her very own catwalk. Ultra conservative in her choices, if not her politics, with shades of Eva Peron, she's always impeccably turned out.

But what really counts is her economic punch, which knocks out even that of the Duchess of Cambridge. In a country of more than one billion, everything Peng Liyuan wears sparks a run on the internet. A minor hit sells out instantly and inspires less well-off Chinese to purchase inexpensive copies. A major one, like the lady-like bag by the Chinese label Exception, caused its website to crash. A huge hit could lead to stock market tremors.

S.O.S: these are Chinese brands she's championing. Louise Wilson, head of the MA course at Central St Martin's, has long fretted that with so many Chinese students at British fashion and art colleges, it's only a matter of time before China ceases to be merely a manufacturing powerhouse and becomes a creative one, too. Meanwhile, Angelica Cheung, editor of Chinese Vogue, which is so successful it publishes 16 times a year, has been touring her country linking embroidery and silk artisans with designers.

The Chinese may love buying up Europe - even Luxembourg benefits from their fashion addiction because of its proximity to Karl Marx's birthplace in Germany. (A favourite itinerary begins with Marx in Trier in the morning and culminates in Marc Jacobs in Smets after lunch) but this revenue stream may dry up .

You know what this means: Europe's first ladies, who have been keeping a low profile, must start strutting their Erdem and Dior again.

Chins up (but don't forget your cashmere stole). Sales of coats are way up this year, and still selling. That's real coats and not just quilted nylon ones. They may save retailers this quarter. Another plus? Press releases like the one I received a few days ago about a "revolutionary" alternative to Botox that freezes the muscles with Arctic blasts seem even more redundant. Just go for a walk.

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