SHANGHAI As luxury brands continue to permeate China at dizzying rates, designers are seeking new and innovative ways to assimilate their brands into local culture and establish a lasting foothold in the country's booming economy. The latest of these is Diane von Furstenberg, who already has two stores in Beijing, another in Shanghai, and plans to open two more. However, unlike other brands that have used fashion shows to promote their wares—ploys including Fendi's spectacle on the Great Wall of China, Ferragamo and Dior's Bund River outings, and Miuccia Prada's January presentation atop the Central Academy of Fine Arts—the U.S.-based designer chose instead to engage with the nation's burgeoning art community.
Timed to the opening of her “Diane von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress” exhibit at the Pace Gallery's Beijing location, von Furstenberg and her eponymous clothing brand hosted a 600-person fete in Shanghai on March 31. “China is the cradle of our civilization and has always inspired me tremendously,” said von Furstenberg. “China is a major part of our future, and its art is already some of the most exciting being made worldwide.”
Dubbed the Red Ball, the event was produced by Bureau Betak and designed to infuse traditional Chinese elements with the designer's own style.“The idea was to illustrate Diane's spirit and bring it to China,” said Alex de Betak, the founder of the Paris- and New York-based event company. “We also wanted an event that would highlight her passions and interests, such as art, music, dance, performance, and food.”
To that end, the gala, which was held in the hangarlike studio space of artist Zhang Huan, mixed customary Chinese lanterns and a palette of red (a culturally significant color for the country) with the designer's initials and signature prints. Following the dinner, performance artist Jin Xin Nan entertained guests—including Jessica Alba, artist Pearl Lam, talk show host Charlie Rose, model Du Juan, and actress Zhang Ziyi—with a two-part piece choreographed by Jin Xing.
Further reinforcing her commitment to China, von Furstenberg set up an account on the Chinese social media microblogging site Sina Weibo, which has since garnered some 30,000 followers.