Designing for 21st century women from Shanghai to the world
by Jessie Hu
“Ming Ma focused on balancing the unique sculptural silhouettes with effortless sensibility: aiming to revive the elegant ease of the contemporary women.”1 As written on the official Ming Ma website, the ideology behind this colorful, bold brand focuses on expression of the feminine grace. Moreover, from Ming Ma himself, he uses the words “elegant, dynamic and confident” to describe his style. Exactly fitting to such description, when you first take a glance at the designs listed on the website, you see the vibrant, dashing colors and the intricate floral prints. When you take a second look, you start to notice the structure and shapes of these pieces, the airy, puff sleeves, the delicately placed bows and the volumized hemlines. The structural designs of the clothing seem almost architectural through Ming Ma’s “strengths in 3D cutting and draping”.2
Born in WuHan, Ming Ma launched his label under his name in 2018 after studying in London at Central Saint Martins.3 Growing up in a family that was much more passionate about finance, Ming Ma could only dream of studying fashion in the future. His interests in fashion sparked when he flipped through magazines, magazines that revealed to him the infinite possibilities with clothing and fashion. Through watching interviews, he was also inspired by Louise Wilson’s perspectives on fashion, eventually motivating him to apply to CSM with no former knowledge of fashion. In London, the varied cultures and people influenced Ming Ma’s perception of fashion and the world, while his application for the MA taught by Louise Wilson was successful. Despite having spent his entire life learning finance, Ming Ma excelled in fashion by being critical to himself and following his heart with his fashion designs.4 After the founding of the label Ming Ma in Shanghai, a store/platform called Labelhood discovered the talented artist Ming Ma and his brand, bringing in his designs to the stores. Labelhood is a platform created by Tasha Liu in Beijing while they have established several stores in Shanghai as well. The platform collects designs from China-based designers who receive little recognition and fame, therefore, spreading the name of these underrated brands and influencing the China fashion market This discovery led to a blooming fame for Ming Ma and the label soon became well known throughout China and later across the globe. Now, Ming Ma designs are usually found on various online shopping platforms worldwide while they can also be purchased in Labelhood stores in Shanghai. Social media also pushed the fame of the brand with Ming ma’s instagram account @mingma_official.
When looking at the Ming Ma webpage, first we notice a page with only black and white colors while most of the space is left blank. However, once you click into the side bar to view the latest collections, you see a line of photographs of each runway look, all eye-catching with the colorful designs. Scrolling down the page, we see several photographs of models wearing the signature pieces with the letter Ming Ma written across the pictures. The website isn’t just one about fashion, but the incorporation of photography and other media art forms. This probably stems from Ming Ma’s studies at CMS, where individuality and cross-sectional studies are encouraged. The overall style of the website seems bold and mysterious all at once.
In the Spring/Summer 2022 collection, most of the pieces incorporate elements of flowers. We see lots of floral prints on the dresses and gowns while the runway looks include chokers with giant flowers hanging on the neck from them. The edges of the dresses can also mimic the shapes of flowers. For instance, this dress’ edges are shaped like the opening of a tulip. It’s parted in the middle while it encloses at the bottom. Since flowers have a history of being symbolic for elegance and gracefulness, using floral elements adds to the modern yet elegant appeal of Ming Ma’s designs.
In cosmopolitan cities and all around the world, as women fight for equality and start to break stereotypes, more women are pushing the boundaries and revealing their true self with bold choices of clothing, makeup and other expressions of identity. In Ming Ma’s pieces, one notices a lot of saturated, bright colors not seen in many other designers’ pieces that also aim for a show of feminine elegance. Ming Ma’s definition of femininity is traditional, yet with a demonstration of modernity. The contrasting colors may create the opposite idea of elegance, however, when they were put into Ming Ma’s designs, there’s an unexplainiable sense of coordination and expression of the female power. These designs are more than clothing, but an approach to break the feminine mold and an opportunity for women to step outside their comfort zones and attempt new styles.
SS 2022 collection. This dress is unique for the shape of the skirt that is similar to the look of a tulip. The skirt wraps around the body while it slits open in the middle like the way tulip petals are parted and open. The light blue bow on the bodice is a signature touch of Ming Ma in this collection. We can see bows similar to this one on other looks as well, but for each piece, the bow is decorated with different patterns or colors to match the look. The bright green color of the gloves create a contrast with the soft, less vibrant blue of the dress.
SS 2022. Both looks incorporated floral prints, black, ankle-length pencil skirts as well as “flowers” attached to the chokers as accessories. On the left, the bustier top features long sleeves with layered openings, covered in pink and purple delicate floral prints. There’s a pink rose made from fabrics on the neck, mimicking a rose that hasn’t fully bloomed yet, creating an overall elegant and graceful look. On the right, the tube top features pink and yellow floral designs while a skirt drips down on the right from the top. There is a pink rose and a yellow rose on the neck while the pink rose is more open, just like flowers when they are in full bloom. This look is more expressive and bold with the structures and color arrangements.
SS 2022. The left outfit uses a dimmed, light blue to match with a brighter, glittery gold as a skirt. The volumized and sculpted bubble sleeves demonstrate Ming Ma’s playfulness with the structures of clothing. The high-waisted, floor-length golden skirt grabs people’s attention as the golden element is continued with the golden rose necklace. On the right, we see another bow, but in a floral print with yellow, orange and blue flowers. The skirt drapes down the back and is open on the front, showing a sense of power and majesty while the off-shoulder design adds elegance to the look.
1. Ming Ma website. https://www.mingmastudio.com/info
3. Generation T editors. The Gen.T Asia website. The Gen.T List. https://generationt.asia/people/ming-ma
4. Mayura Jain. Radii China. https://radiichina.com/china-designers-ming-ma/