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The new face of China fashion

By Tiffany Tan and Gan Tian | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-03 05:32

During the recently concluded China Fashion Week, the hottest looks didn't appear on any of the runway shows. They weren't even unveiled in China. They emerged from an airplane door, down metal steps, on to Russian and Tanzanian soil.

One look was a navy blue, double-breasted coat paired with a light blue silk scarf and a black leather tote bag. The other was a suit and skirt ensemble in white brocade, worn with another blue scarf.

"It really was huge good news," says Cao Ping, a menswear designer who participated in the fashion week.

Cao and his fellow fashion executives and designers didn't mind that their biannual fashion showcase was overshadowed. After all, the looks were debuted by Peng Liyuan, a showbiz celebrity and China's new first lady, on her first official trip overseas.

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Besides bringing instant fame to the independent label she wore, the Guangzhou-based Exception de Mixmind, Peng also shone a spotlight on Chinese design talent and craftsmanship.

Her most widely publicized attire on the trip included a brown Qing-style robe with a mandarin collar and loop frog buttons, draped around the neck with an embroidered purple shawl.

"All eyes were on her and she might have been expected to wear renowned luxury or designer brands," says Armance Rotceig, creative director of her namesake French fashion brand.

"Instead she detached herself from Western styles and presented a vision of contemporary Chinese fashion, with a desire to bring Chinese designers to the world stage."

The new face of China fashion

Her clothes show the world the new face of China's fashion industry - not just a manufacturer but a center of creativity and innovation, says Serge Carreira, a lecturer on fashion and luxury at the SciencesPo university in Paris.

Fashion watchers have drawn parallels between Peng, 50, and the United States' first lady Michelle Obama, 49, who has promoted American designers and labels like Isabel Toledo, Jason Wu and J Crew. Others compare Peng with France's former first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who became an international icon of elegance, garbed in her favorite Christian Dior, Chanel and John Galliano.

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