Los Angeles and China Will Exchange Design Students

Times Staff Writer

Americans and Chinese share little common fashion ground, but those differences may shrink with an exchange planned between the People's Republic of China and a Los Angeles-based design school.

The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) and the China National Textile Import & Export Corp. (Chinatex) will swap student and faculty members beginning in January, according to FIDM President Tonian Hohberg.

Seminars on Trade

Hohberg visited Peking and Shanghai earlier this spring to give seminars and workshops on the American apparel trade. She pointed out that Chinese officials will visit Los Angeles later this month to further negotiate the exchange.

The idea was spawned in April, when Hohberg traveled to China with Mary Stephens, chairwoman of FIDM fashion department and L.A. apparel manufacturer Bill Pickard. The threesome met with 400 Chinese technicians, designers, manufacturers and educators and brought with them sportswear samples by top designers, including Calvin Klein, Geoffrey Beene, Anne Klein and Ralph Lauren.

Hohberg said the Chinese wanted to learn about American consumers and mass-market fashion in hopes of increasing fashion exports to the United States.

"The Chinese are interested in capturing more of the American market and exporting more into America," Hohberg said. "We explained how someone develops a line and how they create different lines for different seasons every year--the whole American marketing strategy."

The Chinese excel at weaving and dyeing fabrics, but lack expertise in design and marketing, he said .

Strengthening Designers

The exchange, which will begin with three students from each country, should strengthen the design pool within China and expose Americans to Chinese textile techniques, Hohberg said.

"What we hope to get out of it is some of the wonderful things they're doing with textiles and dyeing, and perhaps play a part in some joint ventures in manufacturing." Those joint ventures, she said, would likely involve American designers making use of Chinese production and labor.

Resource Center

FIDM also will set up a library-resource center on Chinese textiles for those planning to do business in China, Hohberg said.

The FIDM group was invited to China by Chinatex. The 8-year-old FIDM has 3,500 full-time students on five campuses.

"There are so many Americans who want to sell in China--and so much that both countries are anxious to develop," Hohberg said. "The door has to start to open."

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