NEW YORK, NY - MAY 04:  Christian Louboutin and Yue-Sai Kan appear onstage during the 2018 China Fashion Gala at The Plaza Hotel on May 4, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Owen Hoffmann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

“When you look at a society if they’re fashionable or not, you’re not looking at how many designers they have, you’re looking at how people are wearing things,” said Grace Chen. The designer, whose pieces have been worn by Oprah Winfrey and Helen Mirren, put on a fashion show at the China Fashion Gala at The Plaza Hotel on Friday night. Held by the China Institute and the China Beauty Charity Fundthe third annual gala honored Tiffany & Co., Christian Louboutin, Maggie Q and Shanghai Tang, all of which have made a substantial impact on Chinese fashion in recent years.

The evening opened with a cocktail reception, during which works by famed Chinese photographer Sun Jun were on display, followed by a dinner reception which featured a dance performance by previous winners of the Miss Universe China competition. During the awards ceremony, Louboutin, who had arrived by plane just hours before, revealed that he actually thought he was on his way to a friend’s house for a small gathering. Little did he know he was being honored with the Fashion Legacy Award.

“The evolution of fashion in China has been probably the most important source of inspiration in my work,” shared Massimiliano Giornetti, creative director of Shanghai Tang, before the dinner. He and Alessandro Bastagli accepted the Fashion Legacy Award for Shanghai Tang.

“Sometimes people ask me what’s the difference between the attitude of the Chinese people toward [Western] people and I have to say that there’s a freedom in approaching fashion as a language, as a translation [of] inner personality,” Giornetti continued. “That’s become the most interesting aspect in my daily work.”

Chen, who left China in 1995 but returned in 2009, shared her thoughts on how the country can achieve global influence in fashion. “In order for China to have this global influence in fashion, Chinese people have to look really nice, really stylish,” she said. “That’s why Uniqlo, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto or Comme des Garçons, all of these brands have their own global influence, it’s because people respect Japanese [designers] as they see [Japan] as a stylish country. We have to do the same thing. It’s the same for everyone, like Americans did in the Seventies and Eighties. You have to have a spirit, a philosophy behind it, not just about how many designers you have, how many fashion awards you won.”