The organically inspired work of Ma Ke is an exercise in the power of poetry and one person’s mission to defy the odds in the cut throat world of high fashion and garment production. The experimental Chinese fashion designer has made a name for herself as a flowering renegade in a country more commonly known for mass produced textiles and cheap labor. Exception de Mixmind, Ma Ke’s recent collection and art house label, uses sustainable fabrics and materials that are intricately crafted by artisans at hand looms in a studio awash with natural sunlight. Known to some as the anti-fashion designer, Ma Ke‘s handcrafted pieces cover the gamut of having been buried in dirt to having been awarded ‘Best Asian Fashion Designer’ by Elle Style Awards during 2007.
Ma Ke is such an inspiration on the global art/fashion scene that she recently inspired the award winning film director Jia Zhangke to create an elegantly theatrical film about her exceptional work. The documentary Wu Yong (Useless), traces the preparation and launch of Ma Ke‘s collection ‘Useless’ in Paris. The film’s footage of workers in a Guangdong garment factory contrasted with images of Ma Ke‘s artisans at their hand looms puts a whole new spin on labor and sustainability. Critics describe the film as an exploration of the lives and economic woes of people in China’s post-industrial wastelands, especially those who make mass-market clothes for western supermarkets. They view Ma Ke as a designer who wants to lead us back to nature with clothes that embody the natural processes of growth and decay. It’s an example of art mimicking life or rather design mimicking global paradoxes as we contemplate the hearts, minds, and myriad aspirations of the workers behind the garment industry labels.