Qipaos are most often seen as an iconic representation of Chinese culture. Yet, not many know the details and hard work behind each garment to make it one-of-a-kind.
According to Hanart (瀚藝) art director of Zhou Zhuguang (周朱光), “the aesthetic of qipao is elegant.”
“Hanart is a typical handicrafts workshop just like other brands that make haute couture,” he said, adding that their insistence on “handmade” qipaos lies in the techniques handed down by their ancestors.
Zhou revealed that the nicer qipaos are always tailor-made.
“Some of the craft is unique to China, and there are many steps to making a qipao,” he said.
From taking measurements, choosing a style, cutting patterns, sewing, fitting, embroidering, second fitting, and so on, qipaos undergo a lengthy process before completion.
Zhou recalled that masters would finish the whole thing from top to bottom in the past, but nowadays, there is a division of work.
“A different tailor does every step,” Zhou said, so a smocked qipao may need the constant cooperation of eight tailors or more to complete.
As the process is quite complex, it could take up to two to three months to finish one smocked qipao, Zhou revealed.
The importance of qipaos also lay heavily on Zhou’s heart as he believes “in the age of machines, handicrafts are getting rare and precious.”
“A handcrafted qipao today may become an art piece collected by a museum,” he concluded.