Artisans create slow fashion for a fast-paced world (2020/10/18)
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  • 英文 English 
    Artisans create slow fashion for a fast-paced world (2020/10/18)

    Not many of us would think to go to a tailor when we want to buy clothes. But once upon a time, artisans were the prime purveyors of high-end garments and accessories. In today's market of mass-produced clothes, there is still a handful of craftsmen who make custom pieces like the qipao, a tight-fitting Chinese-style dress. Today in our Sunday special report, we take a stroll into the world of slow, made-to-order fashion that's designed to be treasured for a lifetime.

    Walking into Wanhua District’s Bopiliao Historic Block, 76-year-old Chung Chun-chung stops to snap photos, while recalling memories of his childhood.

    Photography is a hobby Chung developed in his childhood. By trade, he’s a professional jeweler. His family has run a gold jewelry shop for three generations.

    Chung’s day starts as the store’s display window is lit up. Under the store’s lights, he is bathed in the glitter of gold, jeweler and jewelry each shining resplendently.

    Chung Chun-chung
    Those getting married or celebrating mothers’ and fathers’ birthdays all come here to buy. Business was the best at the start of my 20s. Back then business was the best, and my work was never complete.

    In that era, orders from weddings and birthdays alone were enough that the store had to hire a dozen or so jewelers. Their salaries back then were comparable to a bank manager’s. Chung began making jewelry at 17, and is still at today in his old age.

    Gold is heated to 1,200 degrees Celsius, until it gives off a milky white light. That light means the gold is soft enough for the jeweler to mold it into new forms.

    As the mallet hits the gold, a sharp clang penetrates the air. Each strike is made with a deliberate force, at a calibrated angle.

    Chisel in hand, he carves out a delicate pattern. Chung has spent countless days hunched over a narrow workbench, but not once has he complained of being worn out from his work.

    Chung Chen Yu-chin
    Chung Chun-chung’s wife
    If you’re doing something out of interest, you’ll do it well – you won’t feel tired doing it. He sits there all day, and if I ask him if he wants to go do something fun, he just ignores me.

    Chung is hailed as a jeweler with an “artisan’s spirit.” It’s praise for his level of skill, which is in the realm of art. And even after all this time, he still has the love for the craft that he started with.

    Similarly dedicated to his craft is 67-year-old artisan Chen Chung-hsin. Having started at 13, Chen followed in his parents’ footsteps, crafting qipao – traditional Chinese dresses – in Taipei’s then-bustling Dadaocheng area.

    Chen Chung-hsin
    If the lady next door wanted new clothes for the Lunar New Year, or if there was someone in the family getting married, they would come and have a qipao made. In the early days, in the entertainment district, there were a dozen odd qipao shops – and they would each have at least two dressmakers. Back when business was booming, we had five or six dressmakers working with us.

    In the making of a custom qipao, the materials and patterns are chosen by the customer. Next, the dressmaker will cut the materials to fit the customer’s body measurements. Each dress is highly unique, and it is unlikely two people will end up wearing the same dress.

    Ma Yu-wen
    I feel that a good number of people misunderstand the qipao – they think you need to have a nice figure to wear qipao. Actually I am a person who often wears qipao and I have discovered that, qipao is magical in how it adorns the body. If you look closely at its handcrafted elements, you’ll see that everyone’s qipao is completely different. We say that Europe is known for its haute couture high-end custom fashion. Well qipao is the high-end custom clothing of Chinese people.

    For a time, qipao and custom-made gold jewelry were treasured goods in Taiwan. But both began to fall by the wayside in the 1980s, when new machinery ushered in mass production.

    Shih Wen-hsin
    Taipei Jewelers Association
    If you want to mass produce something, then of course you need to make a pattern, which you will do by using a mold. The difference between hand-crafted and molded things is… I should say that handcrafted things are much more durable and much more easily repaired. Its lines are more refined.

    Ma Yu-wen
    The qipao’s decline was due to the advent of ready-made clothing. Another reason was due to the fact that in the 1960s and 1970s, qipao were very, very tight-fitting. It was popular to wear tight-fitting qipao then. Well to be honest, it’s really not convenient to move around in such a tight-fitting qipao.

    In modern society, efficiency and immediate gains are highly prized. Under these circumstances, the processes of traditional artisans can’t keep up in terms of speed or quantity. But some argue that such metrics don’t capture quality.

    Hsu Feng-chang
    National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute
    Have people ever considered that we live in a situation where people are too concerned with immediate gains, where everyone wants to see fast results. But are those really good results? Sometimes, that’s not necessarily the case. What we’re doing is – we’re trying to promote what we call “slow workmanship,” or rather “slow work that produces refined workmanship.”

    Custom jewelry is unique, and the craftsmen who make them patiently communicate with the client to fill their needs. This type of closeness between maker and consumer are things that mechanized production can never replicate.

    A customer of Chen’s for 30 years now, Lee Yu-feng’s closet houses 200 qipao custom-made just for her. On this visit, she is not only here to order a new dress. She’s here to implore Chen to go with her to an event held by a qipao enthusiasts group.

    It’s Saturday here on Dihua Street. There’s a stage at this bustling center. One by one these, qipao enthusiasts take to the runway to show off their dresses. As a maker of qipaos, Chen also walks the runway. Throughout the event, close to 100 people participate, making the qipao fashion show a success.

    Young people mix with shop owners, together designing a tour of the old street. Qipao shops and tea shops are worked into the tour. Visitors are encouraged to enter the shops and gain a sense for what is local culture.

    Huang Fei-lin
    Cultural historian
    For those interested in artisanal crafts, an issue faced by Taiwan at the moment is the disappearance of the traditional arts. So we need more people to focus their attention on this. The national treasures among us are inside the alleyways.

    Taiwan’s artisans spend their entire lives focused on doing one thing well. These crafts that are born out of time and reflection are the fashion items of everyday Taiwanese people.

    Chen Chung-hsin
    One customer talks about it to another customer. They wear their qipao out for the joy of it. If Taiwanese wear qipao when they go abroad, people see it and tell them, “Your clothes… that qipao is so beautiful!”

    Chung Chun-chung
    People used to say that wearing gold is old-fashioned. I tell customers, it is also possible for old-fashioned to be beautiful. Handcrafted things have a handcrafted feel to them. Something that’s a bit off kilter can also be beautiful. It’s different from the rest.

    Always transforming and always improving, craftsmen work with nothing but their hands, keeping the flame alive for local traditional arts.
    中文 Chinese  





    [[鍾春忠 打金師]]





    [[鍾春忠太太 鍾陳玉琴]]



    [[陳忠信 旗袍師]]


    [[馬于文 輔大文創學程兼任講師]]
    “我覺得很多人對旗袍有誤解,覺得旗袍好像要身材很好才能穿,其實我自己常穿旗袍的人發現,旗袍的剪裁有修飾身形的魔力,你近看它的手工藝,其實每個人都是完全不一樣,我們說歐洲有Haute couture高級訂製,旗袍其實是華人的高級訂製”


    [[石文信 北市金銀珠寶同業公會召集人]]

    [[馬于文 輔大文創學程兼任講師]]


    [[許峰旗分館長 台北當代工藝設計分館]]





    [[大稻埕巷弄文化推廣者 黃飛霖]]


    [[陳忠信 旗袍師]]

    [[鍾春忠 打金師]]

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