Fashionable China: Women Who Have Led the Pack

April 1, 2012
Editor: Sun Xi
Song Huaikuei: Fashion Guru 
Pierre Cardin (R3) and Song Huaikuei (L3)  []

Pierre Cardin (R3) and Song Huaikuei (L3)  []

Song Huaikuei, the former long-standing chief representative for Pierre Cardin China, is widely considered as the iconic fashion symbol of the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1978, the Pierre Cardin Company entered China and set up its first boutiques. Its chief designer, Pierre Cardin, met Song in Paris in 1980, with the result that Song helped the brand stage an exclusive fashion show at Beijing's Cultural Palace of Nationalities.

Admission to the event was limited to officials and fashion industry insiders.

After serving as the chief representative of Pierre Cardin in China, Song began to prepare for Pierre Cardin's first fashion show in China by scouting for potential models on the streets of Beijing.

Song would approach random people on the street in the hopes of recruiting them as models. She sometimes visited musical troupes or frequented film-shooting sites in the hope of spotting potential models. It was through one such attempt that future modeling stars Gong Haibin (formerly an industrial worker in a local Beijing dye house) and Shang Xiaomei first caught her eye.

More than a dozen people were finally selected as members of the Beijing Fashion Show Team. Almost all of them came from the more humble strata of society, amongst them being a vegetable vendor, rug weaver, sweater knitter, fruit seller and textile worker.

They gathered together every evening and were trained by two professional catwalk choreographers from Paris. Many lived a double life, slipping off to rehearsals in secret or feigning sick from work.

Finally, after several months of professional training, China's first group of fashion models debuted at the Beijing Hotel in October 1981. The show turned out to be a great success.

In 1985, Song brought 12 Chinese models to Paris to take part in fashion shows, helping in part to create something of an international stir. The photo of a Chinese model holding a Five-Starred Red Flag (the national flag of the People's Republic of China) on an open car passing by the iconic Arc de Triomphe became one of the classic images of the 1980s.

In truth, Song's contribution to China's modeling industry could not be exaggerated. Song trained all of the country's first models and many went on to gain fame in the 1980s. She also organized a mega-show to display China's 5,000 years of finery, which was held in scores of countries and were visited by many country leaders.

She also contributed to many of China's international cultural and fashion events, drawing attention from the global fashion industry.

On March 21, 2006, Song died from cancer in Beijing. 

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