Talking textiles with Hannah Pang

RMIT Gallery is exploring the boundaries of textiles with two new exhibitions Sensorial Loop: 1st Tamworth Textile Triennial and Hannah Pang: Double Happiness Portrait of a Chinese Wedding (both to 24 March). Hannah Pang’s exhibition opens tomorrow, (17 Feb) with a special artist talk from 12-1 pm. Chinese finger food included. Free. Bookings; 9925 1717.

Hannah Pang is currently at RMIT Gallery installing her exhibition, which features garments that are an intricate, complex and dazzling modern recreation of a 1930s Chinese wedding in Shanghai.

We caught up with Hannah and spoke with her about her interest in Chinese handicrafts like embroidery, hand painting and hand weaving. She has added a contemporary twist and her own vision to the extraordinarily beautiful garments. Not surprising, really when you realize that she’s produced fabric for some of the major innovative fashion designers of the late 20th century – like the late Gianni Versace.


RMIT Gallery: The embroidery on these garments is extraordinary. On the grandmother of the bride outfit, for instance, it covers the bottom panel and it’s in the pattern of a dragon, and almost free form.

Hannah Pang: While it is embroidery, it’s more free style. And the pattern is also more free form; it’s like a dragon but not exactly like a dragon. It’s all done by hand, and took a long time. I have a team of people who work for me in Suzhou, China. I also send some of this work out to people who specialise in this kind of embroidery.

What makes it different is that unlike traditional embroidery, where you have a motif and then you just do your stitching, free hand embroidery requires you to be creative and use your imagination. You use an overlay of antique gold, yellow gold and silver, overlapping the different shades to build depth.

What’s the symbolism of the dragon?

Oh well, because the grandmother is the head of the family, she should have the authority. But usually should be the phoenix. But I wanted to have some fun so I put in the dragon to suit her status in the family.

Everyone will love the little baby and child outfits. They are both detailed and very cute. You manage to add so much detail and texture into the pieces.

In this collection what I tried to do is weaving, but weaving using ribbon. So with the baby outfit, we use fabric to make wider ribbon and test out how it will look. Because the outfit is so small, it doesn’t take too much time because you know ribbon is so wide.

Just like in fashion parades, the actual bridal dress is the show stopper. How did you create this piece?

The bride’s dress is much finer, it takes months to do. With the fabric, you do the base first and then you do the pattern. And then the silk ribbon is base dyed. It is not one colour. From far away it looks like a red dress, but when you get closer you notice it’s very different. There are many different shades of red in it, and then it has a three dimensional, floral pattern. I am quite happy with it.

All of the garments in the exhibition are almost sculptural.

I am not interested in recreating an antique piece. There needs to be a modern twist. So this is my version. I also wanted to show that traditional garments still have a place in China if given a contemporary edge, because nowadays when young people get married they tend to wear western outfits. The groom wears the suit and girls wear the white wedding dress. I think we should do something from our heritage.


This exhibition is supported by Jin Ze Art Centre, Shanghai.

Thank you to Mei and Picchi for providing mannequins for the wonderful show Double Happiness.

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