Vanity Fair featured China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan in their 2013’s Best Dressed list alongside the likes of Beyonce and Kate Middleton. Soon after images of Peng appeared all across China , and versions of her jacket have been in demand. So who is behind China’s most stylish woman? Designing Peng behind the scenes is Ma Ke.
Ma Ke is one of China’s leading fashion designers, owning both a ready-to-wear-line EXCEPTION de Mixmind, as well as an haute couture line WUYONG. EXCEPTION is considered China’s first designer brand, opening more than 100 stores across the mainland and a reported value of 1 million RMB. In 2006, Ma Ke left the brand to focus on her haute couture line WUYONG, which has presented just two lines since.
WUYONG’s lack of productivity is due to it being a non-profit organisation focused on hand-craftsmanship rather than commercial success. Speaking to Time Out Shanghai, Ma Ke said “I’ve never understood why everyone wants things to be done taller, faster and stronger. I love handmade things, the way they take in different qualities and meanings over time.” The word ‘wuyong’ means useless, and Ma Ke takes seemingly ‘useless’ items such as old sheets and tarpaulin, and recreates them as fashionable clothing items.
Among her awards are Best Fashion Designer of the New Generation at the 2005 Shanghai International Fashion Culture Festival, Best Original Creator at the 2005 China Fashion Designer Awards, Best International Chinese Fashion Designer at the 2006 Modern Media Weekly Awards, Best Asian Fashion Designer at the 2007 Elle Style Awards, as well as being named a Laureate at the 2008 Prince Claus Awards. Considering these awards and accolades, it’s no surprise China’s first lady chose Ma Ke as her stylist.