The Met Gala is one of the biggest nights in fashion: a fundraising ball that supports the Met's Costume Institute and officially opens its yearly fashion exhibition. But last night's theme, China: Through The Looking Glass, has rightfully prompted concerns about cultural appropriation or worse. Curator Andrew Bolton's description of the exhibit as an exploration of the West's "[enchantment] with enigmatic objects and imagery from the East" is in itself blatant orientalism, filtering China through a Western gaze that, intentionally or not, winds up freezing an entire culture in the past.
Chinoiserie, Mandarin collars, and dragon textiles are valuable parts of China's culture and heritage, but those kinds of traditional elements are often implicitly characterized as the only mode of being authentically Chinese. As the world's largest economy and with a luxury market to match, there are scores of contemporary Chinese designers making clothes for both local and international markets. Here are six contemporary Chinese designers currently killing it in fashion.
1. Xiao Li, born in China and trained in the UK, has earned accolades for her vibrant, playful style.
A cute baby blue platform sandal retails for $799 at H Lorenzo.
2. Masha Ma, a former Alexander McQueen assistant, has shown at both London and Paris fashion weeks.
A graphic print dress is on sale at Yoox for $346.
3. Yang Li's unconventional take on skate culture bridges his international background.
A plaid plissé skirt from his Spring 2015 collection sells at Barneys for $500.
4. Helen Lee's Shanghai-based cult label insh offers bright, clever streetwear, while her eponymous line features soft, elegant pieces.
You can cop a mesh Helen Lee bomber for $500 via Lane Crawford.
5. Avant-garde designer Hu Sheguang goes all out with dramatic, fantastical looks.
6. Guo Pei, who has a storied 26-year-long career, made waves by designing Rihanna's gorgeous Met Gala look.
Get in touch with Pei's Paris atelier if you're in need of a Rih-level gown.
Lead image: Thomas A. Clary / Getty Images