By Elsbeth van Paridon
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, March 27, 2014
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Apologies again for the headline, I again just couldn't help myself. Hopping kangeroos, droning didgeridoos, "a dingo ate my baby" and sexercising Kylie Minogue basically sum up my knowledge of Down Under. In fashion lingo, the one thing that stood out when investigating Australia's fashion scene (I too admittedly questioned that one), was the scrutiny it has had to bear over the past decades, as in "Australia is always one season behind Europe." According to some, the nation is still wearing fashion diapers designed by some 200-year-old European castaways, plus the seasons aren't exactly like ours (Europeans') either, neither timing nor temperature-wise. To be fair though: Why wear a full outfit when a swimming suit will do?

Yet the city of Melbourne does have this thing called the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) where designer Hannah Ren ploughed her way through and onto a masters degree in Gold and Silversmithing.

A very fine-lined preview of what's to come.

Jade outdoes gold

Say what you will about the country's fashion scene, but China knows its accessories -- and has done so for centuries. I don't know whether it is a coincidence or not, but if there's one thing the ancient Greek, Egyptian, Indian and Chinese civilizations outdid the rest of the world with, just me perhaps, it must have been jewelry and other fashionable adornments. Let's be honest, the Galleons, Dutch and Vikings weren't exactly the Kate Moss of good taste at that time (depending on your view, but I still love her). As far as China was concerned, the precious metal food chain ranked as follows: gold over silver (no surprises there) and jade over anything. The most desirable items on the Spring Festival wish lists back in China's former dynastical days (say 15th to 19th century) were amulets, pins, headbands, rings and earrings -- basically the top five most wanted by any man or woman. When it came to the epitome of color (in terms of prestige), they didn't drift too far from today's perception though: blue embodied "royalty".

Whether it concerned Henry VIII in 16th century England or Empress Dowager Cixi in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911, not going all the way back to the Qin Dynasty this time) China, jewelry was mostly used to reveal the personal temperament and social standing of those who adorned themselves with it; imperial jewels would for example bear royal signifiers (sapphire anyone?) which would in turn find much imitation among the lower aristocracy and newly moneyed merchant class. Thus a trend begins (I never thought of Cixi as a trendsetter before; that seemed more of a Louis XIV attribute…). Trends and styles were further enhanced as materials, techniques and designs would actually cross oceans and cultures (the more exotic, the more exquisite-kinda-thinking) thanks to the increasing trade between the East and West over the past 300 years. Interestingly enough, Qing court accessories were often designed to convey moral connotations instead of merely flaunting extravagant riches. Interesting indeed… (Summer Palace anyone?)

"Cellophane Flowers," a very delicate necklace design.

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