by Miette Dsouza
As the lights beam in a little warehouse located in the vibrant district of Shoreditch – an almost antiseptic looking catwalk is graced by models strutting down in sheer dresses, opulent ancient jewellery and… crocs.
Yuqing Lai and Cristine Xu's collection, 'Fisher Woman's Culture', is an ode to generations of Chinese Huian fisherwomen and Baiyue heritage. Lai and Xu do an excellent job of weaving their culture into the fabric of their collection.
3D motifs like bio-based leather flowers manufactured by Vegatex mirror the floral-patterned head scarves commonly worn by women from Huian.
The avant-garde “six-leaf flowers” are made from sustainably sourced faux leather made from recycled beer and fermented brewer’s grain. MTG puts sustainability at the core of its collection by sourcing recycled fabrics for their designs as well as incorporating zero-waste tailoring.
Elements of fisherwoman clothing were also incorporated into the looks right from conical yellow hats to boxy structured jackets and wide-leg pants which symbolise the embracing of femininity amongst newer generations of the community.
The blue, black and white hues beautifully amalgamate to parallel the maritime aesthetic and the ocean on the runway. Lai and Xu’s hard work when conducting field research in Fujian, China, halfway across the world did not go to waste. Their dedication can easily be observed in every nuance and detail right down to the shoes.
Crocs are typically known for their water-replant properties and are the perfect ergonomic shoe for fisherwomen in the Fujian province to wear for fishing. The leather six flower petal details to the crocks were a lovely addition and even upgraded the look of the chunky shoes.
An outfit that very quickly became the most memorable ensemble from the collection was one that was effortlessly maximalist. The model sported oversized black leather pants with only beaded and metallic jewellery covering the top half of her body.
The beaded tassels were reminiscent of shells and coupled beautifully with the ancient metallic chains which made the whole outfit look delicate yet deadly. Another outfit which stuck with me was an all-white look which sported sequins that shone under the lights mimicking the scales of fish or the shine of the moonlight on water paired with heavy metallic accessories.
The theme of the outfits having delicate materials like sheer, mesh tops and dainty beaded accessories or sequins in juxtaposition to tough leather and hard metals mirrored the duality and lives of the Huian fisherwomen beautifully.
Their aim to be one of a kind and to stand alone and away from fast fashion trends reigns true as they have managed to create a unique line with symbolism and their culture embedded in every thread. Creativity is a key strength of the up-and-coming designers and can be seen through their use of macrame weaving they incorporated into the outfits as well.
Through their collection, MTG tries to portray the allure of a dying craft, the unpredictable happiness of fisherwomen and their awakening female consciousness. Xu and Lai’s collaboration with Sedrin – a brand under Budweiser originating in Fujian is dedicated to preserving local culture, is giving Chinese Baiyue culture a new lease of life and rejuvenating it sustainably.
MTG combines and contrasts modern silhouettes with ethnic elements in the most tactful way and I can only hope to see more designers incorporate their culture on the catwalk.
Edited by Emily Duff