Three emerging Italian designers showed their collections last Friday and Saturday at the St Regis Tianjin, at what the organisers - the hotel, Greber Management, Bridge IT and Fun & Fan magazine - dubbed the city's first fully fledged fashion week.
On both evenings, the 420 square metre Diamond Ballroom on the 18th and the top floor of the luxurious Starwood property was packed with a local audience looking for a taste of authentic Italian style. The three creators, all in their 20s, are recent graduates of some of the top fashion schools in Italy.
'They represent the new faces of Italy,' says Stefania Pellegrino, a project manager at Bridge IT, a talent company set up three years ago with the aim of bringing young fashion designers from Italy to Tianjin.
The runway show on Friday night kicked off with a series of cheongsam from Ruifuxiang, a century-old Beijing tailor.
Later, 22-year-old Ginerva Cupellini from Rome presented her autumn-winter 2012 collection. The short jackets and knee-high skirts had a casual, youthful look. And many of the muted pastels she employed are inspired by Claude Monet's Water Lilies.
'For the past 10 years, we've seen a lot of black and grey in design,' she says. 'I like to break it up a little bit and experiment with colour.'
Cupellini now has her own brand, Nessuna 158.
Maria Concetta Finella, 27, a native of Naples, has made a name for herself with exquisite burgundy wedding gowns. The jackets and overcoats that she brought to Tianjin were reminiscent of the 1950s, a period when Italy enjoyed an economic recovery.
Finella collaborated with haute couture brands including Sarli, Tony Ward and Ronda Salaman before launching her own label, MC Finella, in 2009.
'I like to create structure in my design,' she says of her tight-waisted coats which emphasise body curves.
The last show was by 24-year-old Tiziana Capillo from Palermo, Sicily. With a background in costume design at Massimo Theatre, Europe's third largest opera house, Capillo launched her own Korai label in 2010.
She showcased her spring-summer 2012 collection, which is rich in warm colours, coral patterns and soft lines. 'They reflect the exotic colours and local culture of Palermo,' she says.
Her creations bristled with handcrafted bead ornaments and were finished with decorative Oriental button knots.
Once a second-tier city, Tianjin now ranks among the fastest growing cities in China.
'This was our first event to test the market,' says Guido Greber from Greber Management. 'After Beijing and Shanghai, I feel that Tianjin will be next for fashion trendsetting.'
Earlier in the week, the designers hosted a flash mob runway show at the Italian street in the heart of Tianjin, a tourist attraction which retains 137 original buildings from the era of the city's Italian Concession from 1901 to 1947.
Tianjin Fashion Week has started out small, but the signs from last weekend were encouraging and suggest that it has the potential to lure an international and Chinese audience of fashion buyers and media. 'This is not a one-shot project,' says Pellegrino. 'We plan to come back next year with designers from other European countries.'Topics: North China Plain Fashion Tianjin Fashion Design Tianjin