Leading by example

  • Letters
  • Saturday, 30 Mar 2013

China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan made a fashion statement during a recent visit to Russia and Africa.

AS Xi Jinping continues his first official visit to African countries as the Chinese President, his wife Peng Liyuan is as much of a star attraction back in China.

The close attention on Peng is not so much due to her new role as China’s First Lady but rather the fashion statement she made during the trip.

Peng arrived in Moscow, Russia, on March 22 with her husband in a double-sided buttoned navy blue coat with a black handbag.

Her clothes matched perfectly with that of her husband’s.

She wore a jacket decorated with motifs of blue flowers and birds over a black dress and carried a black purse when attending an event at the MGIMO University in the Russian capital.

In Tanzania on Monday, she appeared in an all-white jacket and skirt.

The navy blue coat and black handbag she wore and carried in Russia started the “Liyuan-Style” mania.

Soon, word spread on the Internet that the coat and handbag were not from luxurious foreign brands but were made by Exception de Mixmind, a Chinese brand established in Guangzhou in 1996.

After confirmation of this by the Guangzhou City Administration of Quality and Technology Supervision on its microblog, many Chinese praised Peng for supporting local brands and for carrying the pride of China during her visit.

Some Netizens said Peng looked “elegant” and “nicely-matched” with her clothes, while many others started creating forum threads on what clothes the First Lady would wear next.

Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology art and design department head Xie Ping was quoted by Beijing News as saying that the coat was designed based on a classical Western army uniform.

Qingdao Municipal Textile and Fashion Association secretary-general Zheng Mingmei said that the coat and handbag that Peng used in Russia fitted her personality and character well.

“What the First Lady did by wearing a local brand has no doubt increased the reputation of China-made brands internationally and boosted the confidence of our fashion brands in Qingdao,” she told Qingdao Morning News.

According to reports in China, major search engines and online shopping websites have seen a significant increase in the number of search words such as “Liwai (Exception in Mandarin)” and “Wuyong (Useless which is the sister brand of Exception)”.

The Exception de Mixmind outlets in Chengdu and Qingdao have received more customers than before, with many asking about the navy blue coat and black handbag worn by the First Lady.

The staff at the outlets told customers that they did not sell models of the coat and handbag.

Despite that, many customers still walked away with handbags resembling that of Peng’s.

Prices of its spring collection cardigans and long cotton shirts ranged between 1,000 yuan and 2,000 yuan (RM490 and RM980) while new handbags were priced between 2,000 yuan (RM980) and 3,000 yuan (RM1,470).

Qingdao Morning News reported that Peng’s coat should belong to last year’s winter collection series and cost around a few thousand yuan while the handbag similar to that of Peng’s was estimated to have cost 5,000 yuan (RM2,450).

“Compared with other coats and handbags around the same range, design and craftsmanship, the coat and handbag used by her were not too pricey,” said a staff.

Even before the First Lady fashion mania, Exception de Mixmind had already been quite an established brand.

Chinese tennis star Li Na wore a stand-up collar white shirt with black motifs during her photo call after her triumph in the French Open in 2011, and that shirt was from Exception’s 2007 “Tea Energy” series.

At that time, Exception founder and chairman Mao Jihong quashed rumours that the company sponsored Li Na’s fashion wear, saying that she was never their brand ambassador but they were delighted to see her wearing their label.

Of course, this time, it’s a bit different.

With Peng’s stature as the First Lady and a celebrity (Peng is one of China’s top female sopranos who sings a repertoire of ethnic and patriotic songs), this gives the brand more recognition.

In its editorial, Beijing Morning Post said there were three reasons why Peng received so much attention from the people and media.

One was that she was using made-in-China goods, second the clothes and handbags were not from luxury brands and third being her poise in leading by example.

“Nowadays, luxury consumption has be­c­ome a trend to show off one’s wealth.

Peng’s handbag is in a way a wake-up call for many Chinese who pursue luxury goods.

“After the Chinese Communist Party’s national congress (last November), the government outlined eight guidelines on improving its working style.

“Peng showed an important detail which was advocating austerity and a frugal lifestyle,” it said.

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