Although miles apart geographically, artisans in Cyprus and China are both working with traditional design techniques finds PAUL LAMBIS

Modern fashion trends are often shaped by ethnic clothing from every corner of the world. These cultural masterpieces, often admired for their intricate embroidery, distinctive patterns, and meticulous detailing, offer a new look for people who value tradition and elegance.

Jiang Manzong, a representative of Shanghai-style cheongsam – a Chinese outfit worn by women that takes inspiration from Manchu ethnic clothing – has contributed to the development of new fashion designs while receiving international recognition for his efforts in preserving and promoting China’s tangible cultural heritage.

The Longfeng cheongsam, which emphasises a woman’s curvature, dates to the reign of Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) in China. Longfeng cheongsam handicrafts were listed as national-level tangible cultural heritages in 2011, and later that year, they captivated audiences at an international cultural heritage expo hosted at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

culture traditional chinese clothingLongfeng cheongsam has nine crafts, according to Manzong, namely inlaying pieces, rimming the inlaid pieces, creating fringes, sewing curving lines, embroidering, painting, hollowing, carving, and producing knot buttons. “The knot buttons of Longfeng cheongsam are famous for their exquisite crafts and distinctive styles,” he said. “Nowadays they are not only a decorative part on the dress, but also independent artworks that showcase China’s traditional and modern culture.”

Manzong was born in 1966 in Jingjiang City in east China’s Jiangsu Province and is the fourth-generation inheritor of Longfeng cheongsam handicrafts. “I continuously practised the crafts until late at night and often hurt myself with the needle, and after three years of being an apprentice, it allowed me to fine tune my skill.”

According to Manzong, the workshop at the time frequently ran out of light, “but I can now produce the same level of work even in the dark thanks to my arduous practice.”

While Manzong and his coworkers continue to promote cheongsam culture through their garments, another organisation, created in 2022, focuses on exploring the uniqueness of Cypriot fashion heritage through sustainable fashion designs and art pieces.

culure chinese details

Chinese details

“The Fashion Heritage Network Cyprus (FHNC) is all about stimulating, re-discovering, and re-inventing elements of Cypriot fashion, and communicating these creative shifts in a sustainable manner to a global audience,” its director Christina Dymioti said. “We aim to re-introduce traditional garments, techniques, and materials but with a modern and innovative twist while also engaging the younger generation.”

culture cyprus details

Cyprus details

According to Dymioti, the FHNC brings together young Cypriot fashion designers and artists from all over Cyprus, as well as from the wider diaspora, and allows them to collaborate, exchange ideas, and present their work. “The project uses art to foster debate and bridge communication across cultural and linguistic divides.”

Since its inception, the network has already hosted fashion sustainability events in the United Kingdom and Cyprus, as well as promoted its members’ work through fashion shows, videos, and online content, as well as second-hand fashion bazaars and seminars. “The network has about 40 volunteers who work in departments such as media and public relations, heritage, research, fashion design, art, graphic design, and marketing.”

As an inter-communal project, the FHNC also organises educational workshops and seminars for its members, as well as opportunities for them to present their work on both local and international platforms and network with industry professionals. “Through art, we can create dialogue and bridges,” Dymioti added.

culture traditional cyprus clothing

Traditional Cyprus clothing

“Cypriot ethnic fashion is an extension of other important aspects of the island’s cultural inheritance, which includes chair weaving, pottery, jewellery, lace embroidery, as well as other elements related to celebratory events and daily practises,” she said.

Similarly, Manzong sends his apprentices to events in villages, schools and cultural centres to promote the cheongsam culture. Every term, he collaborates with Qingyun Middle School to provide classes for students. He also leads a Longfeng cultural and creative team that seeks collaboration with diverse professions to create handmade artworks. “I hope that more people will get to know Longfeng cheongsam, and our traditional culture,” he added.

Both Manzong and Dymioti intend to raise awareness of their fashion’s cultural heritage and promote its values not only to the local community, but also to international designers and audiences who recognise the importance of preserving ethnically inherited works of fashion and art, at the same time amplifying their fashion voices globally.

About Mirror of Culture

Mirror of Culture is a joint initiative of the Cyprus Mail and the Chinese embassy. It highlights the parallels between Cypriot and Chinese culture to set an example of acceptance, respect and understanding, recognising the fundamental importance of culture.

Culture is the universal language that transcends many barriers, including language and geography. The aim is to work with diverse cultural communities in Cyprus to share and promote our vibrant cultures to further bolster the bonds among all the people of Cyprus and celebrate the diversity in the world.

The initiative understands the importance of cultural preservation, which is an important way for us to transmit traditions and practices of the past to future generations.