Beijing-born designer Masha Ma is on the fast track, opening stores at a rapid rate in China and showing her clothes at Paris Fashion Week.
ONCE SEEN, MASHA MA is never forgotten. The designer has a floppy, over-the-face fringe that has become a talked-about feature on Chinese social media, to the extent that there is even a hashtag, #halffacecovergirl.
As a media-savvy millennial, Ma encourages fans to post their own versions of her eye-obscuring fringe, a procedure that also allows her direct contact with people who buy her clothes. But, as she cheerfully admits, there are those who find the constant fringe flicking rather irritating. When meeting Ma, a naturally cheery and garrulous character, it can be distracting to have every answer accompanied by a shake of the head, or a sweep of the hand, to move the damn fringe out of the way.
“It’s a love or hate thing, I don’t think you’ll find so much neutral or middle ground,” laughs Ma with – inevitably – a toss of the fringe.“People hashtag me when they have a similar hairstyle and for fun I’ll choose one every week and repost it. Hundreds of people are doing it; some are shy so they send me messages on Weibo, or Wechat, rather than posting it, [but] they want me to see it.
“It started when I was very young, I didn’t want to have a boring hairstyle with an ordinary fringe, or be cutesy. I was never a pretty girl when I was young so I wanted to cover my face and then I got lazy and it got longer and one day it stayed longer and I realised it was a hairstyle and a way of people recognising me. It also helped in Europe where people often think that Asians look alike – they definitely remember me!”
They do indeed, and not only for the distinctive tresses. Ma is becoming something of a force internationally, and in her native China, with a rapidly expanding portfolio of stores and lines. There are three main brands, one catering to entry-level fashionistas, another to more discerning consumers, and a third aimed at an increasingly important segment of the market – menswear.
She’s nothing if not bold and ambitious, showing at the twice-annual shows in Paris at ever-larger venues. October’s catwalk show, which showcased the spring/ summer 2018 collection, also featured a specially commissioned film by Hong Kong’s Wing Shya that pays homage to Wong Kar-wai’s movie 2046.
There’s been a slew of endorsements from celebrity names, confirming Masha Ma as a brand with plenty of star quotient. Togs from Ma have been draped on the frames of A-list actress Zhang Ziyi, shock-popster Lady Gaga and supermodel Naomi Campbell.
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