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Couture lingerie from the Modern East. Every piece hand-crafted with pure silk in our Beijing atelier.

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humble rants and musings of an introverted designer, trying to bring awareness to other (non-western) lingerie culture.

Pantone Quilt Challenge 2018

Irene Lu

"MADAME Z", Size 32B/C, 100% Silk with gold thread, Beijing China

There are white boxes in my studio marked Scraps, by color, with a tiny rectangular peep hole that I use to shove off-cut scraps into. The box is never opened but I knew from day one these are meant for an up-cycled collection. Though inspiration never came and the pile grew from 1 to 10 boxes, by ROYGBIV BWG.

When I decided to close down the brand last month, I was toiling about the destiny of these boxes. To trash or to keep? In walked a treasure hunter at the studio sale and we had a very pleasant exchange, probably more memorable to me than for her. I sold her my silk dye kit because she always wanted to try it and she (without knowing it) gifted me a lightbulb (figuratively speaking) to quilt these scraps (thank you crazy quilter Caroline!). I immediately overfilled my instagram feed with quilting and soon enough, the B box gets opened. This spontaneous burst of magical creative storm encouraged me to keep the brand open a little longer. Funny how life turns out...

Almost coincidently (or was it the universe's ultimate plan?) I found out about the Pantone Quilt Challenge of 2018 and the V box too gets opened, containing the prized color of the year, Ultra Violet.

Madame Z is a patched up work of triangles and squares with a gold topstitch to secure the seam allowance and avoid any washing disaster (this design aesthetic came about as a solution to the risks of washing, in mind) I chose to have alternating zigzag lines of dark and light purples shades to create a chevron like effect but shades were limited to the scraps available so it’s difficult to have a more controlled, balance gradient. 

I’ve decided to use the kestos bra pattern because it is my way of “recycling” the classic design. There are double layered raw edged bias silk chiffon outlining the bust with hand sewn bias binding at the underbust. Adjustable shoulder straps with lots of hidden silk encased elastic. Hand made silk chinese froggings replaced the classic buttons of the kestos. 

The high-waisted tap pants, kind of French knicker cut, opens at the center back with 5 handmade multi-colored silk Chinese froggings for an ouvert effect. There is elastic encased in the waistline with hand sewn bias bound hemline. The rectangular panels below the yoke is also designed from a restricted shape and size of the scrap pieces. 

Both pieces are lined with 100% silk making both pieces reversible.

It was quite a refreshing challenge to develop Madame Z. In previous collections, I would manipulate fabric according to the design. This time, it is the reverse.  The random shapes and miniature size of the scraps manipulated the design. I love puzzles and so this project left my right brain very satisfied, indeed. 

I have never been in love with my own design until today and never was a collection this personal. Through the process of digging and pulling out scrap pieces, names of clients that ordered each color for their bespoke order kept popping in my head. Clients that believed in my work throughout the years, even when the showroom was just my awkward living room back in 2012. It was very emotional to remember all the support and love. How dare I close the brand!?

Madame Z is a step up from my usual custom made-to-order because it's more than just personalized colors. Each piece connects multiple stories from beautiful strong women. Without their stories/inspiration behind the chosen color, their pieces of scrap left behind from their order, this collection will have a different concept or maybe wont even exist. Ultimately, every piece made from this collection will have it's own individual collection of stories. Can this get any more “one of a kind”? 

This nostalgia echoes what quilted gifts were intended for back in the earliest days of quilting in Asia and is still practiced today within the Chinese ethnic minority groups. For example, families and friends would donate a piece of their old clothing to quilt a garment or wrap to a newborn baby so that he is wearing a collective blessing from the community. I specified "he" because only boys were honored with such community blessing. Sad! Take the sexism out of the tradition and it is seriously, very sweet. Some say the earliest form of quilting was found in China and traveled to Europe via SIlk Road and India. 

I’m usually very secretive about my development process until it's perfected and showcased with a proper campaign launch as a result of a professional shoot, heavenly models and the whole 9 yards but this is different. Simply because well... there’s a deadline (today) and this is a good push for me to just crank it, get it out there. (I’ve been developing another collection and it has been few years of saying “to be launched soon” oh sigh) So at this point, it's not perfect, merely just the first sample of many that usually comes after until its ready for purchase. Now that it is out and by the "seasonal" nature of collecting the scraps, I will open it up for pre-orders.

I quote "seasonal" like ordering dishes at restaurants. Perhaps this idea of availability will apply to Madame Z where orders can commence creation only when there is enough scraps collected. I have enough for the first few orders and thereafter will be a waiting period, especially for the more "seasonal" Y and O colors (least popular request) such as star fruit, persimmons, pumpkins, pomegranate, bartlett pears, etc ... BWG (most popular request) is plentiful all year round. How long are you willing to wait for lingerie? 

There we go. Madame Z. Z for zero. Zero Waste. Yeah, the name is a very literal and any suggestions is welcome! Thank you for listening to my disorganized rambling filled with grammatical errors post but I hope you enjoyed it. Now it's time to develop a dudou (traditional Chinese lingerie) for this collection, of course :)

What do you think about the new design?

With All My 💜

 Irene