Ma Ke

A pioneer of the Chinese fashion industry, Ma Ke launched the clothing line Exception De Mixmind in 1996, which is known for being China’s first designer brand.

As one of China’s most influential designers of her generation, in 2006 Ma founded WuYong Studio as a social enterprise, dedicated to rejuvenating folk arts in modern society. She later became the first Chinese designer to present at Paris Haute Couture Week in 2008.

The celebrated designer claims that she does not follow fashion trends, instead focusing on creating simple, natural clothing, made in harmony with nature. “I have no idea about the common fashion,” said Ma.

“Over the last 12 years, I didn’t buy any Western luxury products, or clothes, or accessories, or even fragrances. I only wear handmade clothes made by WuYong. I think that is the biggest surprise. I am a clothes designer, not a fashion designer — I think they have different meanings,” she added.

In 2014, WuYong Living Space was opened in Beijing, showcasing handmade items, including clothes, food and home goods, all of which are sustainably produced.

After admitting that she does not love fashion, Ma explained that she has a different perspective on the industry. “I don’t just want to expand my business to have more stores and get more money; that is not my only objective,” she said.

Ma prefers a timeless aesthetic in her designs and a peaceful, eco-friendly way of life. “In the past 12 years, our staff go to the remote areas again and again. They live together with the craftsmen and make their investigation on the traditional folk crafts. We have been touched and moved by the pure and simple balance.”

She spoke about the fickle nature of the fashion industry and its trends, remarking that changes in the industry do not have real meaning compared to changes in society, such as Buddhism or the life-changing work of people such as Mother Teresa and Jane Goodall.

“The real change is not to get more benefits, to get more resources, to get a better reputation. The real change is to abandon living in the past successes and order. Abandon being great, selfish and controlling. Abandon accumulated wealth. Abandon the shell which makes you feel safe and comfortable,” said Ma.