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Shanghai’s Aesthetic Ascent: Fashion Week 2010

23 Oct 2010

Nathan Bullock is a Fulbright Fellow based in Singapore, researching human and cultural geography, urbanization, and critical studies. Read about his adventures at East Coast Elitist.

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As four of the top ten global cities are located in Asia (as ranked by Foreign Policy Magazine), competition over political influence and economic centrality is fierce, with capitals like Beijing, Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo often gaining the upper hand.

Culturally, however, Shanghai has seen itself rise to a level of fashion not shared by any others in the region, save Tokyo. While it only ranks in the top 20 — tied with Frankfurt — it oversteps other noted fashion meccas like Stockholm and Milan.

It happens to be Fashion Week in the city on the sea, which explicitly proclaims its goal of becoming an “international fashion capital.” Fashion maisons from Paris and London are making Shanghai their haute couture headquarters for the new Chinese bourgeois market (which starts young!). At this moment, we should ask: If modern fashion and art can control the largest city in China, could a similarly new kind of politics follow suit?

In terms of rankings, Shanghai has also moved up five spots from #10 to #5 on this year’s Zeitgeist Ranking by Hub Culture, marking another win in the cultural dominance. It’s more edgy and artsy than too-edgy-and-artsy-to-try NYC. Shanghai has long been a safe-haven (at least, as safe as any subversive place can be in the PRC) for China’s postmodern artists and filmmakers, distancing themselves from Beijing.

From museums like the ShangART Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), from schools like the Shanghai Visual Arts Institute (SIVA) to the China Academy of Art, the city easily boasts the broadest palette of arts education in the mainland. As Shanghai competes both internally and externally for recognition and hegemony, FP predicts that “controlling the cities” will be “the key to the Middle Kingdom.” Can the invisible hand of capitalism — one adorned with BVLGARI jewels, obviously — open the silk curtain to a freedom of expression that extends beyond clothing?

Perhaps the state officials’ speeches opening Shanghai Fashion Week weren’t so much about asserting CCP values as they were echoing British Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey‘s homage to the industry that is the second largest employer in the UK, and keeps London afloat at the #2 spot of Global City rankings. Perhaps.

The increasingly well recognized skyline of the Bund and juxtaposition of modern architecture with the colonial French Concession make the new, and old, city spaces at once iconic and avant-garde. Is it too soon to say that Shanghai is the Lady Gaga of China’s postmodern urbanization?

Either way, Shanghai is the place to be for 中国的21世纪的男和女孩子 (China’s 21st Century Boys & Girls).

[image via]

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 24 Oct 2010 2:12 AM

    I strategy on publishing this post all more than the web. Should certainly I give any credit/references back for you?

    • eastcoastelitist permalink
      25 Oct 2010 12:34 AM

      对,请给我们credit/references.

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