China Doll

by Harry Sheff

Friday’s the first day of Fashion Week and editors and retailers alike are holding their collective breaths. What will the old guard do to keep collections fresh (and licensees happy)? Who will be the new breakout designers? Which celebrities will show up for front-row, flashbulb-popping tabloid attention? There are lots of new names that anted up the $50K or so it takes to stage a show these days, but one name in particular seems way ahead of the usual collection of trust-fund babies and venture capitalists: Cabbeen.

“Who?” you say. “Never heard of him!”

I’m guessing you will. He comes from a country called China. You know the one—it’s backing U.S. debt and manufacturing nearly everything we consume. Well, get ready. Enough with Calvin Klein and Starbucks invading the East—the red tide is about to turn.

A sleek black invitation to the show arrived last week, bearing the gold stamp of a Chinese warrior. Cabbeen himself is 35 years old, great looking and into boxing. His collection is already sold in more than 300 stores in China, Indonesia and Thailand—85 of which are his own, branded outlets. The 17-year old line is not sold in the U.S. yet, but pieces will probably retail for from $200 to $500 for jackets and suits, and $100 to $150 for jeans.

Cabbeen’s style is hip, young and Euro, incorporating his Chinese heritage with embellishments and fabrics. Recent collections included embroidered dragons, phoenixes and florals on sportcoats; jeans studded with multi-colored crystals and Red Army-inspired military trench coats. One jacket I particularly liked had heraldic patches, but rather than traditional family crests, the patches were filled in with motifs from Chinese opera masks. We couldn’t get him to give us the inside scoop on this season’s collections, so you’ll just have to read my blog after I see it on Saturday!

He’s known in China for over-the-top fashion spectacles that include an army of international models, Chinese pop musicians and fireworks; they are held in public spaces with hundreds of attendees and are broadcast to television audiences around the world.

We’re told that Saturday’s presentation will be toned down a bit for the U.S. audience.

According to Chinese astrology, we’re moving into the year of the pig, Cabbeen’s birth sign. I have a feeling that, in more ways than one, this is going to be his year.