In September 1980, New York fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick, best known as Halston, brought to the People's Republic of China the first American fashion show. Halston was invited by China's Textile Corporation to visit the country to meet Chinese exporters, manufacturers and designers to show them how to best use Chinese silks to design clothes for sale in the West as well as in China. 

The Chinese Communist Party officials and bureaucrats ran the state-owned textile and garment industries. It was understood at the time the United States and China were about to sign a textile import accord that would allow more Chinese textiles into the U.S. under a new quota agreement. Accompanied by 25 people including 12 New York models, some were the fashion-world's highest paid, 10 key staff members, artist Victor Hugo, photographer Miro and Bianca Jagger, Halston told the press on arrival at Peking Airport, "We want to help the Chinese help themselves. We want to show them what they can do." 

Over 6 days in Shanghai and Peking, some 950 high government officials and very important Chinese people from China's textile and garment industries were treated to a 45-minute musical parade showcasing Halston brand of made-to-order clothes, sportswear, furs, handbags, luggage, shoes, lingerie, cosmetics, gloves and fragrance. Some 50 guests were invited to the one-hour after show to discuss technical matters.

Halston was matter-of-fact, "The interesting thing in this business is changing the market so people will use your things, but your ideas must be modern; you can't look back to past times. What you must do is re-examine all the aspects of your fashion industry and then create new fashions out of your talents and a new market for your fashions. And that is the main reason for my visit here. I would be very honored to advise your designers, work with you so we can build closer ties between our 2 countries."

In Shanghai, some 1400 guests reportedly turned up at the Friendship Hall to see the Halston's fall collection. Friendship Hall was built by the Russians as a gift to Shanghai after China's 1949 revolution. 'Newsday' noted, "In Shanghai's pre-World War II days this was one of the world’s most chic cities, rich as sin and crowded with beauties – Oriental and occidental (Westerners) – who swept from shop to party to club in fleets of limousines. The 1920s lasted an extra decade in cosmopolitan Shanghai and it's no coincidence the Chinese Communist Party was born in the slums ringing the legendary International Settlement (1843-1943), the city's foreign quarter."

Halston's visit to China coincided with his business venture in Japan which saw Kosugi Sangyo Co. agreeing to manufacture Halston sportswear there. After being told that an original Halston could cost as high as over $10,000, one guest attending the Halston show gasped, "That could feed an entire village so easily." Of the mixed reactions, Halston maintained, "This is what I had hoped for. I didn't bring the show here in an effort to re-dress China. That would be ridiculous. My aim is to help the Chinese people step forward more rapidly into the world of today (in 1980) and develop their industry, their creativeness, their beautiful silks, cotton, wools, knits and embroideries."

Halston also told the press he would like to see China get into the fashion trade as soon as they could and suggested the China Textile Corporation should send apprentices to the Halston design studio in New York for training. In an interview with 'Harper's Bazaar' in October 2011, Bianca Jagger made plain, "I went to China with Halston in 1980. The government had invited him to help relaunch its silk industry and do a show in Shanghai. It was fascinating. China was just beginning to open to the West.

"I remember thousands of bicycles, very few cars, and no billboards. We weren't allowed to go anywhere without a government escort. I was curious to see something beyond the protocol residence. I managed to escape for dinner with a WWD bureau chief, who spoke perfect Chinese, but the government officials and Halston were furious with me. China has become a superpower since then, but civil liberties are still very restricted.

"Look at what happened to Ai Weiwei. Can we be optimistic about a country whose government demonstrates flagrant disrespect for human rights? And China now has millions of cars and the highest carbon-dioxide emissions. Are they and we really better off as a result? The earth is close to dramatic climate change. The world is facing several tipping points. These challenges aren't going away unless we change the way we live. Fashion too has to change."

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