Phoebe Ba is a Dalian native who left China 13 years ago, seeking out the 'American Dream,' planning to remain in the USA indefinitely. But then a trip to visit family for Chinese New Year in 2020 left her 'stranded,' and ultimately deciding to live in China for the foreseeable future.
"As a third culture kid, I always struggled with my identity living abroad and at home," says Ba. "It wasn’t until I started traveling extensively in China that I realized it is a community, rather than a physical place, that cultivates a sense of belonging."
With a passion for fashion and a sense of responsibility to rediscover her heritage, Phoebe has decided to converge her interests, culture and history to create a contemporary qipao line focused on her love for Shanghai and all that it stands for.
The result: The Bund of Love collection, in collaboration with Yi-ming Oriental, a Hong Kong-based fashion label.
We caught up with Phoebe to learn more about her qipao collection and her inspiration for these trendy, super gift-able qipao and accessories.
How did this collaboration get started, and how did you decide to design and modern qipao clothing line together?
I’ve always been drawn to the distinctly elegant look of a qipao dress, and how it makes me feel when I wear it – sophisticated, confident, stylish and beautiful.
However, purchasing qipao, especially for those without the “common Chinese size and shape” isn’t always the easiest task, and most of the qipao available on the market are quite traditional with outdated patterns and a less flattering shape.
I scoured Taobao, purchasing dozens of qipao to find the best ones, but was still left unsatisfied. Finally, it dawned on me; if I wanted to find my ideal qipao – and one that would be attractive to the modern, younger, hip generation – I would have to design and create it myself.
I had met Grace, the founder and creative director of fashion label Yi-ming Oriental when she gifted me a few pieces she had worked on as part of a collaborative collection with Disney Hong Kong. We both really enjoyed working together, with me showcasing her pieces through my social media channels.
I knew that if anyone could create the ideal qipao that I sought, it would be Grace – her fashion brand specializes in pattern creation and I have followed her launch of numerous stunning collections.
We began exchanging messages and discussing details over the phone, and our excitement only grew as our plan came closer and closer to fruition
Where does the name for the collaboration – The Bund of Love – come from? And what is the inspiration behind this clothing line?
Three years ago, I got on a flight to China for a brief holiday visit, just one suitcase in tow. Little did I know a pandemic would leave me ‘stranded’ for nearly three years. It wasn’t easy at first; I found myself back in a country that I had left more than a decade ago, and both the country and the people were foreign to me at that point.
I had no friends. I struggled to find my purpose and to build meaningful connections. However, I knew I was the only one who could make a change. I decided to take the opportunity to rediscover my homeland, embrace its culture and form a community for other people who may also be seeking a sense of belonging.
The community was life changing; it made me fall completely in love with the city of Shanghai; one that became a second home for me. That deep-rooted love that developed into my own sense of belonging is what inspired this collection “The Bund of Love.”
There is a Chinese saying “患难⻅见真情,” meaning “you build real bonds through tough times.” Most people may not know this, but Grace and I actually created the pattern for this collection during the Shanghai lockdown in March of this year – a time when my feelings towards Shanghai was wavering and truly mixed. But I was confident it would recover one day.
Many people left China after the lockdowns, while others stayed and even a few newcomers arrived. Yet, no matter when or why you came, you chose to live in Shanghai and remain in Shanghai because it’s the city we know and love. Even though the community is smaller, it’s stronger, and I’m grateful for this community and for those who chose to stay.
Describe the design components that are present within The Bund of Love collection.
Displayed on the pattern of The Bund of Love collection, you’ll find some of Shanghai’s most iconic architecture – The Bund from both the Pudong and Puxi sides, Jing’an Temple, Yu Garden, The China Pavilion, among others.
We also added a white magnolia, Shanghai’s flower emblem, as a feminine touch.
How did you decide the shape of the different pieces that make up The Bund of Love collection in order to balance the elements of modernity and tradition?
Originally, we only planned on designing three styles, but since we loved the pattern so much, we ultimately decided to expand further and even include two kids styles!
Besides the traditional qipao dress cut, we also created two-piece sets for those who prefer to mix and match, as well as a couple of jackets for daily wear to fit even more women’s outfit needs.
While designing the qipao and related accessories, our key focus was on how women will feel when wearing the collection. It needed to be multi- functional, comfortable and chic all at the same time to fit a variety of life situations.
Who is the target market for these qipao and accessories?
This collection is for everyone who loves Chinese culture and fashion. It’s especially ideal for those who chose to stay in China, as a reminder of how much you’ve overcome and how much you’ve gained and grown during your time in Shanghai – be it one year or 10 years.
Can we expect any new collaboration product lines to come out in the future?
I’m currently working on my own brand next and excited to share more details about it soon!
How and where can readers purchase their own Bund of Love attire?
This collection is sold worldwide, and we provide free global shipping on any purchase over $200.
For those in Shanghai, they can purchase their own Bund of Love collection items in store at BU Club (by appointment only, add WeChat account: s70706715), or online by clicking here.
For all That’s Shanghai readers, you can enjoy a 12% discount by using the checkout code SOPHOEBELOUS.
[All images courtesy of Phoebe Ba]