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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sheguang Hu, and why The Hunger Games' Capitol should've looked more like Beijing Fashion Week.

Beijing Fashion Week rarely makes it to mainstream American/British fashion magazines and blogs, and coverage outside of highlight galleries seems to be nigh-on impossible to find. Which is too bad, because if you enjoy truly out-there couture (which I do) then Beijing is streets ahead of Paris at the moment. Although designers like McQueen are still regularly turning out excellent couture shows, I've found that many of the major fashion houses on the London/Paris/Milan/NYC circuit have been noticeably lacklustre over the last few years.
photos from here.
Autumn/Winter 2012/13
Last month's Sheguang Hu show in Beijing was gothic and alarming, and filled with expressive and over-the-top millinary.

I loved the fabric used for this dress. Hundreds of tiny, mournful faces printed onto the fabric, acting as a counterpoint to the aggressive metal spikes on the belt and shoulder-straps. This entire collection was about combining conservative, relatively simple silhouettes with extravagant detail work. Although a few elements of fetishwear and classic goth/punk looks were included, they were far more subtle and less cliched than those found in most "dark" collections.

One of the reasons why I took such a shine to Sheguang Hu is that he shares my love of upholstery fabrics. In general I think florals are vastly overused in almost every area of fashion design, but when they're a) used in the context of an aggressively structured outfit like the one pictured below, or b) printed or embroidered in the style of pre-1900s fabric designs, then I approve. Another thing I've noticed about Huang's designs is that although he's very fond of the ever-favoured super-slim fitted dress, he does include quite a few more forgiving cuts -- something that's doubly unusual in couture shows, because couture is so obviously not created to appeal to general audiences. But the suit below would work on a variety of women's body shapes.

Spring/Summer 2012
For contrast, I'm including some of my favourites from last season's collection as well. A lot of designers don't vary much from season to season (not necessarily a bad thing -- for example, Gareth Pugh makes clothes exclusively for fetish robots who never go outside or, indeed, breathe, eat or walk anywhere, so "seasons" are completely arbitrary) but Sheguang Hu's Spring and Fall 2012 collections were very different.
Spring/Summer photos from here.
Sheguang Hu moved to Amsterdam as a teenager, studied design there, and now owns a store in the city. I think there are definite European influences in his work, but those influences seem to stem from the fashions of three or four hundred years ago. It reminds me a little of Vivienne Westwood, in fact -- pastiches on the theme of neck-ruffs, Tudor corsets and heavily embroidered fabrics, but never anything that actually resembles period costume.
This candy-pink dress is strictly fairytale, but manages to avoid venturing into Harajuku territory thanks to the huge, robe-like sleeves and simple silhouette.
One of my favourite outfits of the entire collection. It combines the full sleeves of a 16th century gentleman's padded cloth "armour" doublet with a more feminine bodice and modern trousers, creating a shape and aesthetic that overall fails to identify with any era. This look reminded me very much of Virginia Woolf's Orlando, although perhaps that's partially down to the slightly Tilda Swintonish redhaired model.
Looking at many of the highlights from Beijing Fashion Week I not only mourn the comparative tameness of recent Paris/London/etc Couture shows, I find myself getting slightly annoyed at the Hunger Games movie. I haven't posted about it here on Hello, Tailor (yet) but I must admit I found the supposedly-extravagant costumes of the Capitol unexpectedly disappointing. There was a fair amount of pre-movie viral marketing centred around the Capitol fashions, but when it came to the film itself I realised that many of the most prominent costumes had already been revealed, and the bar for outlandishness was nowhere near as high as I'd expected. I'm not saying I disliked the costumes, but I am hoping they edge more towards the Nicki Minaj/Sheguang Hu/Alexander McQueen end of the scale in the sequels as opposed to the brightly coloured but ultimately uninspiring looks we saw this time round.


  1. Ooh I liked this! Most of it, and particularly those felt-y headdresses. Like you, I appreciate the outlandish, "real" couture aspect of those. Thank for posting about it. :)

  2. I love the originality & unconventional aspect of the outfits, HG would have benefited from using some of these designs to promote how vain & materialistic Capitol citizens truly are.
    The dress sense in the film felt like a cop-out, the outfits were copies of a copy, dull &uninspiring.

  3. The title of your post drew me here, because I was disappointed with the Capitol fashion in The Hunger Games. Although the costuming was beautiful, it felt lackluster compared to how I'd imagined it in my head based on the way it was described in the movie (as was the movie, overall). Thanks for the post and these wonderful pics! This is def Capital wear.

  4. Meant to say...based on the way it was described in the book*

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