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Kobi Halperin’s New Collection Draws on the Forbidden City and Chinese Wood Carving

To say that Israeli-born, New York-based designer Kobi Halperin was inspired by a recent trip to Beijing might be an understatement. Halperin admittedly obsesses over the details and admires traditional craftsmanship. His creations frequently showcase intricate laces, beading and needlework. So China’s millennia of silk, embroidery and tapestry manufacturing were obvious draws for the designer. More unexpected, perhaps, was the influence of the city’s ancient architecture on Halperin.

Kobi Halperin's China trip

For pre-fall, Halperin interpreted the faded glory of the Ming Dynasty’s Forbidden City in a rich but delicate collection of silk, floral embroidery and crochet work. Wood carvings on the palace’s many structures also informed the dimensional layering of botanic lace found on dresses and blouses. Luxurious fabrics are wrought in a strongly imperial palette featuring red, black and white, with several pieces in a muted champagne reminiscent of the natural wood beneath the vibrant paint on the city’s aging buildings. Each item of clothing features a skillful, eye-catching flourish or technique but remains classic enough to endure time and fashion.

Kobi Halperin dress

SHOP: Kobi Halperin Jade asymmetrical hem halter lace dress

We spoke with Halperin about the Imperial City, his favorite sights there and what he brought back with him, both materially and artistically—and he shared his stunning travel and pre-fall lookbook photos with us.

Kobi Halperin's China trip

Kobi Halperin Giselle lace vest

SHOP: Kobi Halperin Giselle crochet lace vest

Kobi Halperin's China trip

Did you buy anything there that will always be reminiscent of your trip?

I spent a lot of time at Panjiayuan market, which is one of the biggest antique markets in China. I was thrilled to find many beautiful antique embroidered fabrics. I also found many beads and embellishments at the market, which I brought back and used in my recent collection. I always like to take pieces of history and bring them to life in a modern way!

Where was the best meal you had there? What did you order?

The best meal I had was at Da Dong in Beijing. They have amazing Peking duck!

Kobi Halperin Gina ruffle blouse and Clara crop pants

SHOP: Kobi Halperin Gina cold shoulder ruffle split neck blouse | Clara crop pants

Kobi Halperin's China trip

Kobi Halperin silk dress

SHOP: Kobi Halperin Blair tiered faux wrap silk dress

What was the most surprising thing about Beijing?

The juxtaposition of the modern skyline rising next to the traditional architecture of the Forbidden City was very surprising. The traditional buildings were so intricate and ornamental, and as someone who loves details—it was very inspiring. I was also inspired by the modern architecture because of how they blended Chinese style with Western elements.

What was your favorite thing that you did?

Going to the Peking Opera at Huguang Guild Hall. I was mesmerized by the traditional costumes and the makeup. All the performers had these elaborate painted facial masks, and each mask had different meanings and symbols behind them.

Kobi Halperin's China trip

Kobi Halperin Emme dress

SHOP: Kobi Halperin Emme embroidered silk organza dress

What elements of Chinese culture have influenced your designs?

Something I found very inspiring while wandering the Forbidden City was all of the muted colors. There was a faded vibrancy you could see and feel while walking through the palaces and it was very inspiring! Of course the intricate detailing and textures were also an inspiration, and I incorporate all of those elements in my collection.

What was a style tip that you picked up from the Chinese?

Something I picked up while I was in China was how women would wear their hair with these beautiful hairpins. I love seeing this jewelry worn in an unexpected way. The hairpin however is a very important symbol in the Chinese culture. In the past, wearing a hairpin would symbolize a girl’s coming of age and a big hair-pinning ceremony would take place to mark the occasion. I find the tradition and meaning behind this styling choice very interesting.

Kobi Halperin in China

What did you wear while traveling in Beijing?

My uniform: black T-shirt, black pants, black jacket.

Do you have any tips for traveling in China? Any packing tips?

Definitely visit the Forbidden City and the antique markets. I would say to pack light, so you can buy a lot and bring it back home with you!

SHOP: Kobi Halperin

—Britt Olson