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The China Institute and the Yue-Sai Kan China Beauty Charity Fund held the fifth annual China Fashion Gala on July 23rd with the theme, “One World in Beauty.” This event presented the fashion label Heaven Gaia and raised $500,000 for the Yue-Sai Kan China Beauty Charity Fund, which supports women and children globally through health, culture, and education programs.

The Gala opened with a recording of individual musicians playing “Mo Li Hua,” a Chinese folk song that translates to “Jasmine Flower.” The video featured accomplished musicians performing from around the world: saxophonist Kenny G, violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing, cellist Anna Hu, pianist Rosey Chan, singer Reewa Rathod, and pianist Lang Lang. Afterwards, Yue-Sai Kan, Founder and Chairwoman of the Yue-Sai Kan China Beauty Charity Fund, explained the Gala’s fundraiser, and James Heimowitz, President of the China Institute, elaborated on his organization’s work in studying Chinese art, education, and business practices to promote understanding between China and the United States.

Lucy Liu accepts the Icon Award.

The runway presentation showcased Heaven Gaia, a fashion label created by Chinese couture designer Xiong Ying, for its first viewing in the United States. Ms. Ying described her designs as embodying a “harmonious combination of strength and gentleness… [that] uses garment culture as a key representative of Chinese civilization to communicate its beauty to the world.” Her collection, “A Glimpse of a Thousand Years,” pays homage to Dunhuang, a Chinese city known for its Buddhist caves. Incense burners were another inspiration. During the show, models carried incense burners and wore clothing inlaid with thinly cut jewels and decorated with pure gold filigree. “As the epigram goes, thousands of filigrees go into the golden crown. Crafty hands create the universe,” Ms. Ying concluded.

Four awards were presented throughout the event. Estée Lauder, a global beauty and cosmetics brand, received the Beauty Award. Philip Lim, a Chinese American fashion designer, received the Leadership Award and said, “The Asian influence in my designs is not what you’ll see but rather, everything that you will feel… [to honor] my Asian heritage.” Wendy Yu, a Chinese investor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, received the Millennial Leadership Award in recognition of her support for emerging talent and creativity. Following the fashion show, Lucy Liu, a Chinese American actress and director, received the Icon Award for breaking racial and gender barriers within the film industry. 

In adapting to an online format, the Gala added numerous virtual features. Preceding the event, attendees could enter a virtual waiting room and “walk” around the space to view traditional Chinese art, including a series of eight painted episodes depicting “Nine-colored Deer Jataka,” the story of a deer betrayed by a man whom it saved from drowning. Presenters also seemed to pass awards to recipients in other locations through the video frame. After the presenter passed the award to the left of the frame, the video cut to the recipient accepting it from the right. A recording of the Chinese People’s Art Troupe of People with Disabilities’s performance of the “Thousand Hand Bodhisattva” from Beijing was another virtual feature. Every dancer in the troupe is female, deaf, and mute, and their exceptionally precise movements made their performance even more impressive.

The Gala celebrated Chinese art and recognized several individuals accomplished within music, film, dance, and fashion. Its smooth transition to an online format demonstrated one of many worldwide adjustments during this unprecedented time, and it was certainly a night to remember.