Fusionable Cheongsam – New work by WESSIELING
Muse, Issue 5, June 2007, pp.8-9.

I have never been much of a fan of Maggie Cheung though I know very well that she is far and away Hong Kong’s most accomplished and acclaimed actress. For me, she always tries a little too hard for her acting to be completely natural. But I found her irresistibly seductive and eerily beautiful in Wong Karwail’s movie “In the Mood for Love”. She took my breath away with her gentle swaying as she walked up the stairs to her apartment, or down the stairs to the street.

Of course, what blows me away is not Maggie Cheung per se, but Maggie Cheung in a cheongsam. Indeed, without the myriad of vintage cheongsams worn by the actress and designed by William Cheung, it is doubtful this pretentious film would have cast its unique spell over viewers. In my judgment, the cheongsam is China’s greatest contribution to the global style and fashion vocabulary, and this contribution has so far not been adequately understood.

This is a point tacitly acknowledged by Fusionable Cheongsam, a daring and original exhibition thay opens our eyes to the multiple forms in which this icon of Chinese fashion appeared in both Chinese and non-Chinese communities across different generations, and how it became variously associated with Chinese nationalism, sophisticated femininity, bourgeoisie decadence and Oriental desire.

Presenting the works of the London-based visual artist WESSIELING, who was born in Hong Kong and now teaches at the London College of Fashion, the exhibition asks provocative questions about what it means to be Chinese, a woman, and a Chinese woman. It is a visual treat too: The “Chinese national flag” cheongsam, the “Red Guard” cheongsam and the “US dollar” version will certainly bring a wry smile to one’s face. If only we could see Maggie Cheung in costumes.