“I was always around diverse cultures and different things,” she said in an interview last year. “It was kind of a mishmash of cultures, and I think my design developed that way too; it’s bringing together all of these different aesthetics and places subconsciously.”
Shui, who was born in the U.S., and raised in Rome, Italy, is proud of her Chinese roots and would often incorporate design inspirations from her cultural background.
However, her unique design choices have sparked controversy in the past as non-Chinese women who wore her garments were accused of cultural appropriation.
“I want everyone to wear it,” Shui tells Forbes. “It’s not making fun of anyone. It’s more appreciation than anything else. One of the most important things for me has been bringing people of different backgrounds together.”
One item that has recently raised eyebrows on social media is the Backless Qi Pao, Shui’s most daring version of the traditional Chinese body-hugging dress from Shanghai which became popular from the 1920s to the 1940s.
“This collection is straight-up whore,” she noted, adding that the season must be “sluttier for the summertime.”
Addressing previous allegations of cultural appropriation, Shui is reminded of a White person who was criticized online for wearing a qipao-inspired dress.
“I even got a comment saying it was cultural appropriation when an Asian girl was wearing it; I was like, ‘Do they know I’m Chinese?’ It’s a celebration — not a costume or mockery. People are not trying to appropriate something, they appreciate the style. I’ll always label a dress like ‘Qipao dress’ or ‘Cheongsam dress,’ because I’ve seen Reformation label it ‘mock-neck dress.’ I try to combat that.”
“Now everyone is just scared on Instagram,” she explained. “I think it’s just too negative and it’s extremely policing. It’s ruining lives. It could be a platform to uplift people.”
NextShark has reached out to Kim Shui Studio for comment.
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