Traditional Shanghai crochet shines at fashion week

Shanghai’s heritage skills, such as crochet and woolen knitting, were showcased during the city’s annual haute couture fashion week, in a cooperation between master craftsmen and young fashion designers.

Lin Hua, a practitioner of Xinzhuang crochet, a heritage-listed skill from Shanghai’s Minhang District, cheered enthusiastically after watching a fashion show on the Bund during the 11th Shanghai New Customization Week.

Its traditional weaving craftsmanship, dating back to the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is heavily embodied in the recently unveiled collection from leading tailoring brand WJX.

The delicate crochet patterns, jointly created by Lin and Ye Qing, the brand’s founder and designer, were used as key embellishments on fashion suits.

“I feel proud and excited because traditional craftsmanship can be seen by more people,” Lin said. “This is the true meaning of the transmission of these arts.”

Using a bamboo, bone or stainless steel hook, as well as cotton, linen, silk or woolen threads, the craftsmen, relying on their skilled hands and clever ideas, create patterns with different shapes and variations.

The craft, one of Shanghai’s earliest recorded intangible cultural heritages, originated in the city in 1907, when clerks at downtown Xujiahui Cathedral recruited local village women in Xinzhuang to make clothes hooks .

Local craftsmen then took Shanghai-style designs and developed them into a unique skill between East and West. The delicate and beautiful weaving products became so popular that they were sold to the Yangtze River Delta region via the Shanghai-Hangzhou Railway in the 1980s.

Lin learned crochet from her mother and grandmother. Later, she had the chance to study with Jin Longhua, a seasoned crocheter.

With the help of Shanghai Public Art Cooperation Center and Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Lin cooperated with Ye to modify skills and patterns to fit historical skills into fashion designs.

“Through such cross-border cooperation between artisans and designers, the beauty of traditional craftsmanship can better match modern social aesthetics and return to people’s daily lives,” said Zhang Lili, the center’s operations director.

The center has helped many other traditional skills, such as Shanghai-style embroidery and woolen knitting as well as the ancient Chinese She ethnic minority embroidery to cooperate with designers, artists and fashion brands, said Mr Zhang.

The city’s annual haute couture fashion week was held between Wednesday and Sunday in the wider Yuyuan block between the Yuyuan Garden shopping malls and the Bund.