Alexis Shim

Made in China

Class of: 2027

Major: Illustration BFA

Medium: Found Garment, Cotton Crochet Thread

Faculty: Carolyn Salas

Prompt: Our prompt was to create a soft sculpture, either wearable or related to the body somehow, by experimenting with textiles, sewing techniques, and other fiber techniques.

In my piece “Made in China,” I wanted to explore the contradictory nature of the modern fashion industry. The dress itself is a qipao, traditional attire for Chinese women, and the crochet lace cutouts evoke blood and beauty at the same time. Fashion is an art form and a way for many people to express their identities, but the industry is also extremely damaging socially and environmentally. From the predominantly female textile workers in Asia who are exploited by greedy fast fashion companies to the damaging body standards that the industry projects onto young women all over the world, modern fashion has an unseen dark side that I wanted to visualize in my sculpture. I chose a Chinese qipao because of the associations with the phrase “made in China” and my own Chinese heritage. As an Asian woman, I wanted to highlight the fact that most garment workers in Asia are women, and are highly skilled craftspeople even under the inhumane conditions they work in. Additionally, the form-fitting style of the qipao is a reminder of the body standards enforced by the fashion industry at all levels, especially the body size standards I experience as an East Asian woman— to be smaller, thinner, to take up less space. I intentionally purchased the qipao I worked with from a fast fashion company because I wanted to “elevate” it with Irish crochet lace, a time-consuming art form now used in couture garments. I wanted to bring the beauty of those designs into a cheap dress, emphasizing the skill of garment workers, even those who work in fast fashion, and the beauty of their creations. However, the lace is red, creating open wounds on the dress and reminding the viewer of the ugly side of the fashion industry. Model: Khanh Phan