Ma Ke (born in 1971) is one of China’s most successful designers. She graduated from the Suzhou Institute of Silk Textile Technology in 1992, studied womenswear at Central Saint Martins in 1996 and later that year set up her own label Exception de Mixmind, which is often dubbed ‘China’s first designer brand’, with her ex-husband Mao Jihong.
The Chinese fashion business is only 30 years old and mostly known for its cheap knock-offs. Exception de Mixmind though is celebrated for helping preserve tradition by using traditional dying, weaving and embroidery techniques by the Dong People of Southern China.
Each piece begins as a conventional, comfortable piece made from organic materials, but by the time Ma Ke is done transforming it, it becomes an innovative example of Chinese design.
Unfortunately I have not been able to find a web-store that sells the brand. The collections are only sold in the by now over 100 Exception de Mixmind stores in China.
Wu Yong, the Haute Couture line by Ma Ke
Ma Ke is among the youngest of the first generation of Chinese fashion designers who have received international acclaim . Her interest in the crossover between contemporary art and fashion led her to establish the artistic brand Wu Yong (meaning Useless) in ’06. Next February, Wu Yong was presented at Paris Fashion Week for the first time and attracted much attention within both art and fashion circles.
The production of Ma Ke’s haute couture line is completely done in a workshop in Zhuhai, which employs a team of workers skilled in traditional clothing manufacturing techniques. All stages of production are done in-house, including the spinning, weaving, dyeing and sewing; even using traditional equipment such as a Chinese loom dating from the 19th century. Some of the garments in the collections either incorporate or are made out of recycled material and found objects, including a paint-covered sheet made into a dress and an old tarpaulin (large sheet of strong, flexible, water-resistant material, often cloth such as canvas) constructed into an over-sized coat. Through this brand, Ma Ke is praised for the dedicated efforts to preserve both traditions and the environment.
WU YONG ’07, ph. Zhou-Mi
Ma Ke was awarded the title of ‘Best Asian Fashion Designer’ at the ’07 Elle Style Awards. In ’08 she was invited to show her work at London’s prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum and at Paris Haute Couture Week. The President of the Fédération Française de la Couture remarked of the show, “We are witness to the birth of a true talent.”
She is also the subject of the film “Useless” by Jia Zhang-Ke, a poetic documentary contrasting the artful creation of Ma Ke’s collection with the lives of China’s garment factory.
Victoria&Albert / Paris Fashion Week
Victoria & Albert Museum : Fashion in Motion, Ma Ke Wuyong
Point One (March 1, 2006)
While many readers will associate Chinese textiles with low-end exports, some may already know that the new generation of Chinese young people, who have grown up with greater and greater exposure to luxury goods and the brands of the West and Japan, are beginning to make fashion. They are digesting an array of new influences and readying themselves to conquer the world. Ma Ke, who is considered the most important young fashion designer in China today, founded her brand, EXCEPTION de MIXMIND, nine years ago. Point One, the first book about her work and the first book in English on Chinese fashion, is divided into two volumes: The first part presents a wide range of Ma Ke’s creative work; the second part beautifully illustrates a fashion show held in Beijing last winter.