Lights, camera, culture?

Thursday through Saturday, the University of Michigan’s Confucius Institute is bringing a unique multimedia fashion exhibit to the Michigan Union.

Chinese designer Xu Rui created the exhibit, “To See the Invisible.” It focuses on expressing the ‘unseen’ in Chinese culture by emphasizing form in the evolution of and contrast between traditional Chinese clothing.

Apart from traditional display, the designs were shown at a fashion show Thursday choreographed by Zang Cunliang, a renowned member of the experimental Chinese physical theater community.

Rui’s designs incorporate the work of Jiang Kinor, an associate professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University who combines materials research and design into his work. His metalized textiles lend a holographic, 3-D effect to each piece, allowing them to take on new visual attributes when viewed from different angles.

Rui, who hails from Beijing, is a professor and director of the fashion design department at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and an active designer and lecturer.

The idea of the exhibit was sparked by her interest in the inheritance of Han clothing and the exploration of culture behind traditional Chinese costumes.

Rui’s motivation, she explained through a translator, was her search for a “symbol of Chinese cultural essence” that came from a different, more spiritual place than the normal historical and academic representations.

She hopes University students who attend the exhibit will realize the importance of fashion and international culture.

“Fashion in China is not restricted to the narrow geographical region and the unilateral folk custom,” Rui said. “It is an important branch of world culture with highly condensed, unique qualities. It deeply influences the cultural system of the world.”

Students, professors and community members have filtered in and out of the exhibit already.

Associate Prof. Emily Wilcox, who visited the exhibit Thursday, said Rui’s designs are reminiscent of current trends in China.

“(Tight-calved pants are) really common to see in China, and now I’m wondering if that’s where the fad came from, this research into Chinese culture,” Wilcox said.

LSA sophomore Erica Gray, added that she had seen many aspects of Rui’s designs before but never realized they originated in China.

“I’ve seen a lot of people in the U.S. wearing that, too, so it was fun to learn about the history along with the fashion.”

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