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Flower power

Sun Yuanqing
Updated: Sep 23,2014 1:45 PM     China Daily

Models walk the runway during the Masha Ma show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2014-2015 on March 5, 2014 in Paris, France.

Masha Ma believes the women she designs for are like the epiphyllum flower from which she takes inspiration.

The fragrant flower that blooms once every few years at midnight served as the source of the concept for the T-shirt the 31-year-old created as one of nine Chinese designers commissioned for Vogue’s Fashion Night Out. The event was hosted in Beijing by Vogue China on Aug 31.

The event, inaugurated in 2009, is an annual celebration of fashion and shopping in metropolises such as Shanghai, Milan, Paris and London.

“(The women) don’t cry for attention, but they don’t stay silent either,” says Ma, who serves clients of Lady Gaga proportions.

“The epiphyllum is beautiful because it’s feminine, and it withers after that particular moment. They bloom for themselves-not for others. I hope that women can blossom like the epiphyllum, regardless of what others think.”

Ma attended the event clad in her T-shirt, a black blazer, heels and a pencil skirt with a slit on the back.

The FNO shirt is one of several gestures to share her design philosophy with the public.

Ma is also participating in The Goddess’ New Dress, a popular weekly reality show that features six pairs of Chinese designers and celebrities who present a new clothing collection every episode.

Celebrated brands auction their creations, which are also promoted on Taobao, China’s largest shopping website.

“It’s a very good way to let the general public to know more about fashion and design, and no longer feel intimidated by it,” Ma says.

On the TV show, Ma works seamlessly with singer Shang Wenjie, who has been wearing Ma’s designs on such occasions as MTV appearances. Shang is known for her bold style and musical talent, which Ma says befits the “Ma woman” persona she envisioned.

“It’s about being independent and believing in yourself regardless of the outside world,” Ma says.

“It’s about the courage to say goodbye to the past, whether it was successful or not, and go straight ahead.”

Ma says the show is only a small part of her work. Her battlefield is Paris, where she has been showing collections biannually since 2012, and her fight is to push a new generation of contemporary Chinese designers onto the global stage.

Masha Ma with T-shirts designed by Chinese designers and artists at Vogue’s Fashion Night Out on Aug 31.Photo/China Daily

The Beijing native received her master’s degree in womenswear at London’s Central Saint Martins in 2008. Her graduation collection was selected to show at the London Fashion Week and was later bought by the London retail fashion outlet B Store.

She interned for the likes of Alexander McQueen at school and was a finalist in such competitions as the Lancome Colour Designs Award 2006 and Chloe’s design competition.

She founded her eponymous brand in 2008 and launched the secondary line MA BY MA STUDIO last year.

Ma sees the new line, which targets younger customers, as “more commercial, fun and accessible”.

“For the diffusion line, we will do a completely preppy style. Masha Ma is for women, and MA by MA is for girls,” she says.

The secondary line is mainly sold in China. Ma says she’s considering someday taking it to New York Fashion Week.

Meanwhile, she’s releasing an epiphyllum-themed jewelry collection for the main brand.

Her goal in undertaking so many endeavors, she says, is to evolve from a designer to a brand.

“Everyone can be a designer, but not everyone can build a brand. These are two totally different things,” she says.

Ma plans to focus on building the business’ structure in China in the next two years and then moving on to Paris.

“Masha is so hardworking and devoted,” Vogue China’s editor-in-chief Angelica Cheung says. “And she is always fearless.”

Ma is currently busily preparing for Paris Fashion Week, where she’ll present her new show on Oct 1.

“Femininity is the eternal theme for the brand,” Ma says.

“The new collection will have a brighter summer feel to it. Summer for me is always brighter and clearer, and winter is more on the warm side.”

For the 2014 fall/winter show, Ma designed masks for the models that look like flowers to make a statement about “voice and female power”.

She also plans to create a special show this season to let viewers “really experience it and understand the ‘Ma woman’”, she says.