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In Vogue

By Rebecca Lo | China Daily | Updated: 2014-02-16 08:37

In Vogue

Masha Ma, dressed in her signature black, presents her Spring/Summer 2014 collection debut at W Hong Kong hotel. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Shanghai-based designer Masha Ma wants to become the next big brand. Rebecca Lo catches up with her at W Hong Kong as she prepares for Hong Kong Fashion Week.

The first thing that strikes most people about Masha Ma is her confidence. Born in Beijing in 1985, she is petite and greets us in her W Hong Kong hotel suite dressed in her signature black. The ubiquitous cigarette dangles from rouged lips, making her fair complexion appear all the paler. But this is no China doll. Opinionated about much more than style, she personifies the Chinese fashion diva of the new millennium and doesn't really care if you're on board or not.

Of course Ma has talent. No one who graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design can get away with faking it.

What Ma also possesses in spades is attitude. Her "up yours" demeanor exemplifies the country's post-"cultural revolution" (1966-76) babies who grew up never questioning the boundless possibilities available to a new China.

"I lived in London, then Paris and New York City," says Ma. "I originally studied fine arts in China. But I knew that I was never going to be another Vincent van Gogh."

Even before she graduated with a Master of Arts in womenswear from Saint Martins in 2008, she was raising eyebrows with a host of honors and accolades. She won the Mouse Ji Best International Innovation Award at the 2009 China Contemporary Design Contest and was shortlisted for the 2011 WGSN Breakthrough Designer of the Year.

In 2012, Ma was one of the participating designers in the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund's China Exchange Program. She lived in New York City for a month and spent a day at Vogue's offices where she got to pick legendary editor-in-chief Anna Wintour's brain.

"We talked about what's going on at Vogue and the next generation of designers," Ma recalls. "I didn't find her intimidating. She came across as honest and straightforward. But I forgot my sunglasses in her office and her staff was terrified that they had to bother her again in order for me to fetch them. Everyone is scared of her. But I didn't find her at all devilish! And I learned a lot through the CFDA program."

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