Today in Shanghai, forward fashion plays out against a backdrop of traditional Chinese architecture and culture. Tomorrow, the scene will change.
As photographer Steven Barston and I combed the streets of Shanghai for locations for a shoot with the Sassoon Academy, we saw the alterations first-hand. A high-rise more modern than anything in New York or Los Angeles stands next to a building centuries old that houses generations in a single room, without running water. This time next year, noted a local, the old apartment house will be gone.
Similarly, today Shanghai is filled with people who have moved to the city from remote rural areas, close to the economic engine that is the new China, but far from the life they have always known. As the population becomes more urbanized, Western-style consumer culture and fashion replaces the old Communist uniform. The Shanghai Sassoon Academy trains stylists to create up-to-the-minute hair for China's newly affluent city dwellers and
ex-pats-clients who expect the best from their new-found wealth.
It's a deliberate irony, says International Creative Director Mark Hayes, that he and the Shanghai Academy team have chosen to create looks based on Sassoon's most recent collection, "Gilded Youth," in the heart of the city's transformation. Like Shanghai, the collection looks both forward and back, says Hayes, to the 19th century's world power, Great Britain. In "Gilded Youth," "rural England has been re-invigorated," he says. "Its rich traditions and heritage combine with Britain's unique urban style to create a new look for a modern world." Cuts take on a geometric shape as minimal as Shanghai's World Financial Center, but they are softened with graduation, rounded interior shapes and long fringes. Color is 21st century-assertive, bright and strong.