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Taiwanese fashion designer draws inspiration from tribal totems

2017/10/24 22:15:22

Taipei, Oct. 24 (CNA) Fashion designer Sabra Andre (安德烈) from Taitung County created a stir at the 2017 Vancouver Fashion Week last month with his black-and-white-themed collection that featured Taiwanese indigenous totems and cross stitch patterns.

Andre's success at the show also attracted media attention at home for the first time, even though his designs have been popular among local celebrities and buyers from the Middle East for a while.

"Culture allows me to see the world while being seen," Andre wrote on his Facebook page.

The designer, who is in his 40s, was born in Taiwan to an indigenous Paiwan mother and a Han Chinese father from Taitung and was given the birth name Kao Sheng-chung (高勝忠).

His parents got divorced when he was seven and he was forced to drop out of school in Taitung at the age of 13 and move to Taipei with his father to find better paid work, he told CNA in an interview.

With an innate skill for combining colors, he began to learn how to make movie posters for billboards from his uncle and by the age of 17 was earning enough to help support himself and his siblings.

Image taken from Sabra Andre's Facebook page

"Entering the world of fashion design was totally accidental," he said.

Watching movies so that he could make advertising posters, Andre's perception of images and visual effects deepened, which spurred his interest in the fashion design industry.

In 2009, he won the government-sponsored Taiwan Fashion Design Award with his bold and unique designs inspired by Paiwan images.

"I was lucky," said Andre, who is one of only a handful of Taiwanese fashion designers who incorporate aboriginal symbols and totems, such as the Hundred-pace Snake totem of the Paiwan people, into clothing designs.

In 2017, one of his designs, inspired by the Paiwan myth "Born in a Ceramic Pot," was worn by the lead actor in the Taiwan film "Alifu, the Prince/ss" about a modern-day Paiwan prince who yearns to be a woman.

"My designs do not have to be worn by celebrities, but those who wear them will become celebrities," he said.

(By Sabine Cheng and Elizabeth Hsu)