Rookies steal the show
Two Asian newcomers had few rivals for impact at Germany's Collections Premieren Dusseldorf (CPD). Drawing a full house at the popular August fair at the Igedo fairgrounds on the banks of the Rhine, was Beijing's Hu Xiaodan, who presented highlights from his spectacular Forbidden City collection.
And winning loud applause at a showcase for Dutch designers was Eric Ng Ding Hock, whose racy, lacy numbers heralded fresh possibilities for men's underwear.
For 38-year-old Hu, the CPD was strictly a foreign relations opportunity.
'I am not here to sell. My aim is to increase understanding in the West of China's rich culture and history,' the designer explained.
His 32 outfits, ranging from cocktail dresses to fabulously ornate gowns - the majority in pure silk - were just a sampling from the 90-minute extravaganza which created a sensation in Beijing in February last year.
Inspired by the Forbidden City's artefacts and architecture, Hu spent a year designing a 228-piece collection which gave a whole new dimension to costume drama.
'The show cost 1.2 million yuan [HK$1.1 million] to stage and featured 48 of China's top models,' said Hu, who was sponsored by Xinhua's China Global Public Relations Company.
'Music, choreography, sets - everything was specially created for the Forbidden City collection.' A graduate of Beijing's Central Drama Institute, Hu trained in stage design and his sets and costumes for opera productions, including The Wilderness and The Longevity Palace, have won him wide acclaim.
The last nine years have seen him move into fashion design, though his theatricality, passion for history and scorn of Western fashion - 'no more than a hodge-podge of obsolete patterns' - had his audience at the CPD more bemused than enraptured.
'They are gorgeous, but they're still costumes, not fashion,' said one observer as yet another richly ornate tribute to China's glorious past - this one modelled on the dome of the 16th century Pavilion of Eternal Spring in the Imperial Garden - appeared on stage.
Far more agreeable to the novelty-hungry crowds was the sight of Eric Ng's he-men models sporting provocative numbers in pink and black from his spring-summer 97-citement collection.
Using an array of fabrics including stretch lace, cotton lycra and stretch sateen - often with several combined - the 34-year-old native Singaporean who migrated to The Netherlands with his parents in 1983, had no trouble with the CPD's intense commercialism.
'I'm looking for production opportunities because the market in Holland is too small in the area of men's underwear. A manufacturer with vision would be ideal,' said the designer.
'His collection is refreshing; a really interesting new look,' said London buyer Ted Bishop who, like many, headed for the Dutch pavilion for a second look at Ng's audacious undies - filmy body shirts and scalloped-edged boxer shorts included - with their profusion of dainty lace and naughty zippers.
It was all the encouragement Ng needed. 'I will definitely show in Dusseldorf at the next fair in February,' said the restaurant-owner's son.
'By then, I will have my new range ready. It's all in bright red. Vatican red, I call it.
'Colour and design - they are the things missing in this category.
'There is so much beautiful underwear for women. It's time men had some too.'