Monday, November 16, 2009

The Fashion Show

The invitation came in a box:

for a long time I kept it - from Hangzhou to Chongqing, until, finally, at Guanzhou, my case was too full and I left it behind. Grand it was, and heavy. It unfolded into a concertina which showed the names of the sponsors.

'Cocoon' was the name of the Hangzhou fashion students' end of term show. The winner would receive a prize ('a very valuable one,' whispered Lisa) - a year of study in the west wherever they chose, all expenses paid.

It was crowded, hot, noisy, dark. Microphones and cameras swooped above us, held aloft on gantries. The invitation entitled us to privileged seats with a clear view. I lined up my camera. Music started, and ended, and then, as everyone became quiet, the two comperes appeared - as gleaming and as grey as automata.

Their voices, tinny and fast, became faster, louder, and higher.

Stop. Applause. Breath where there was just air. Sound in front of us and around us.

A pale hat washed out by light

a strutting group - high socked, low booted, hatted;

a red gleaming dress made sun-orange

and then stripes, ruched, gathered into pantaloons, perhaps.

A model listens to another world

or a different smoke-fuelled era.

Then an oyster coloured silk constricts, ripens, swells

while red legs ruffled in chocolate flex on heels.

More red, more gleaming luck,
more circles, sashes and promises of things to come

and then this - which has its own strange glamour.

But these I loved - three maids:

one sullen-faced


another with her eyes shut.

This is all nothing.

From a distance they seem mass-produced

like dolls

or maybe puppets.

And then, at last, the final show.

The designers, announced, take it in turn to bow

then wait in time-honoured style, The runners-up, the also-ran, the soon to be has-been

and the winner. And a life changed. Or so they say.


Blogger aliholli said...

Wow you had a great view. I find fashion outfits like these fascinating... how do they think them up?? (I totally understand the doll simile though)

Tue Nov 17, 12:06:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Ali! I as lucky, wasn't I? It was just a small gap, but enough. I love watching these too - not wear maybe but as works of art.

Tue Nov 17, 10:27:00 am  

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