Wong Kwok Kei (Sandra)
Cultural Translation: An Analysis of Chinese Tropes in Emerging Luxury Chinese Lifestyle-Fashion Brands
Due to the considerable impact of Orientalism in the 1990s, Chinese tropes began to be widely deployed in global luxury fashion brand collections. In the late twentieth century, following the success of ‘China style’ effects, the use of Chinese tropes was a dominant trend in emerging luxury Chinese branding practices. The deployment of Chinese tropes as representations of nationality in brand design has generated vigorous debate about the effectiveness of cultural translation. Edward Said (1994) has termed such an ideological ‘East’ as ‘Orientalism’ and claims that the Orient is ‘an integral part of European material civilisation and culture’ (Said, 1994, p.2). This phenomenon of the Chinese trope design continues to leave a visible mark in brand communications in the twenty-first century. This research investigates the ways in which emerging luxury Chinese lifestyle fashion brands make use of Chinese tropes, symbols, and metaphors in branding practices within the context of the cultural, social, political, and economic changes in China from 1994 to 2014.
This study attempts to construct visual taxonomies to examine the cultural expression of Chinese tropes in the material culture of China, generating a visual archive of Chinese identity interpretation. The study also draws upon multiple case studies of emerging luxury Chinese lifestyle fashion brands to investigate the ramifications and the perceived limitations of the practice of Chinese trope deployment and their relationship to a shift in Chinese identity caused by changing lifestyles. The thesis also challenges the notion of authenticity of ‘Chinese brand’ and ‘Made in China’ and highlights the need to redefine the assessment criteria of ‘country of origin’ for global luxury branding practices in the future.