The female figures
Polly Ho’s Thousand-Knot Qipao has been making waves on the global fashion stage. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Ten-year-old Polly Ho watched her grandmother slouch over her sewing table. She was putting the final touches to a jacket. The sounds of mahjong tiles slapping against the table could be heard in the living room where her mother played the game. It was an uneventful weekend up until Ho had asked her grandmother to teach her the art of tying Chinese knots.
Although Ho had dreamt of becoming a fashion designer since she was five, she couldn’t have known that a sudden decision to learn the craft would help her win accolades 20 years later, when she presented her Thousand-Knot Qipao on the global stage of fashion.
Made of 2,000 knots, the dark teal and white one-piece designed by Ho borrows from an ancient craft that could be traced back to the Zhou Dynasty ( 1100 to 256 BCE) in China, where knots espouse the double connotations of integration and wedlock. To Ho, knots also suggest the marriage of her grandmothers’ memory and her own panache for designing clothes: “I made it to remind people that not everything stays forever, even when it seems they will,” she says of her exquisite creation.
Ho’s work is on show at the newly opened Crafts on Peel, a non-profit gallery focused on transforming traditional craft into modern art. The gallery is headed by founder Yama Chan as well as creative director and second-generation haute-couture seamstress Penelope Luk — two well-known figures in the local art scene.
Though women make up almost half the number of the world’s visual artists, they earn only 74 cents for every dollar made by male artists, according to National Endowment for the Arts in the United States; and only 22 percent of solo shows in Hong Kong’s commercial galleries, specifically, feature women artists, according to a survey conducted in 2018. However, in Hong Kong, where most of the art galleries are run by women, both female artists and women’s issues often find themselves under the spotlight.