Trend Report: The Lure of the Orient

One of the most iconic moments in fashion history occurred in 1997 when Nicole Kidman, then a budding Hollywood starlet, attended the 67th Academy Awards wearing  chartreuse-green silk dress designed by John Galliano for Dior. It is important to note that Kidman was not a big star yet and that she was only there to accompany her then-husband, Hollywood's A-list actor Tom Cruise.

But the ensemble, from Dior's couture collection, caught the attention of many fashion critics and got everyone talking. In fact, Kidman outshone her A-list husband and became the talk of the town for while. That bold choice of outfit, a first on the red carpet, landed Kidman at the top of many best-dressed lists. 

Since then, many designers including Tom Ford for YSL, Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier and Dries Van Noten have all been lured by the exotic culture of the orient From beautiful brocade kimono jackets to elaborate obi belts and cheongsam-style dresses to embroidery rich with oriental motifs, it is no longer a secret that many international designers have looked to the East for inspiration.

From ancient China to international high fashion runways

In 2003, Roberto Cavalli reworked the cheongsam into sexy minidresses (pictured above). The Italian designer once said in an interview that he was "inspired by Asia; the bold colours and the cheongsam". But to give the traditional Chinese costume a more modern spin, Cavalli added corsets into the design to emphasise the "beautiful curves of the woman's body".

Even before that, cheongsam-inspired outfits have made an impact on the industry. In 2001, for instance, the cover of American Vogue's October issue showed top model Carolyn Murphy in a cheongsam-inspired top designed by Galliano for Dior. 

But the Asian Chic trend really took off in 2003 where, just like in 1997-1998, a wide range of designers have incorporated elements of Asia in their designs. Elle magazine then reported on  spate of Asian-influenced handbags by top fashion houses, such as Chanel, Ungaro, Valentino and Gaultier. 

There were also many ensembles that reflected the undeniable lure of the orient. 

The next year, Tom Ford revisited the East. This time, Ford, who was the head designer for Gucci, presented an entire collection based on chinoiserie.

It is no longer a surprise then that the theme for this year's Metropolitan Museum of Art's 2015 Costume Institute exhibition (also known as the Met Gala) is centred around the Chinese culture. Titled "Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film, and Fashion", the exhibition will include pieces from Tom Ford for YSL, Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Dries Van Noten, among many others. The Costume Institute is joining forces with the museum's Department of Asian Art, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next year.

Chinese opera will be a huge focus, as several costumes from famed performer Mei Lanfang will be on display, as well as pieces from John Galliano's spring 2003 Christian Dior couture show (pictured below) that was inspired by Mei.