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Wang Tao

"Tiffany [Trump] is a woman of integrity and passion. I was impressed by her personality."

Wang Tao, the 50-year-old Chinese designer whose New York fashion week show on February 11 was attended by US President Donald Trump's youngest daughter, said people shouldn't read too many political implications into her ties with Tiffany Trump.

Founder, CEO and design director of Shanghai-based haute couture brand Taoray Wang, Wang told the Global Times in an e-mail on March 1 that her brand's cooperation with Tiffany Trump started in 2016 when "she first saw our lookbook at her friend's and became interested, and told us she is coming to our show."

"We started our long-term cooperation with the September show in 2016," Wang said. "Apart from all the haute couture outfits, we also provide image management recommendations."

First daughter

At the February show, the first daughter appeared in a Taoray Wang ivory dress and overcoat sitting next to her mother Marla Maples, President Trump's ex-wife, in the front row. This was not the first time that Tiffany Trump was seen wearing Taoray Wang. Previously, she wore the brand on several occasions during her father's presidential campaign. The white double-breasted Taoray Wang overcoat she wore at her father's inauguration ceremony on January 20 also got many media outlets talking.

"When I first met Tiffany, she was not yet the president's daughter, but a model and a celebrity figure from the Upper East Side," Wang recalled.

"At the time, she was already influential in the fashion industry."

The designer had nothing but praise for Tiffany Trump when it came to her personality. She described the first daughter as credible, encouraging and an amicable low-key person.

"I admire her," Wang wrote.

Tiffany Trump (left) and Wang Tao meet at the Taoray Wang New York fashion week show on February 11. Photos: Courtesy of Taoray Wang

No politics

According to a report from the Daily Mail on February 12, Mexican-born designer Raul Solis sent a model wearing underwear with the words "f**k your wall" down the runway "in a clear message to President Trump" during New York fashion week.

Asked her opinion on the fashion industry getting involved in politics with incidents such as this, Wang said she wasn't willing to comment on anything beyond Tiffany.

"To be honest, as a fashion designer, I have limited knowledge about US politics and political parties," Wang said. "Different media outlets hold different political stances and therefore produce different reports, and I don't want to meddle with political issues."

East-West design

Wang's 2017 fall/winter collection at New York fashion week was described by AFP as a stunning show "with a unique twist of East meets West."

According to Wang, the ideas of adding in laced underwear and nightgowns and dressing female models in oversized men's coats were inspired by the Chinese period drama Scarlet Heart, about a modern woman who wakes up one day in ancient China.

"Traveling is an interesting idea," Wang said. "You can see it in the styling and details on my designs this time - people [who wear my clothes] wake up to find that they have traveled between different times, places or even sexes."

"As for the mixture of East and West, this is not just in this collection, but in the genes of the brand," Wang explained, attributing this style to her multicultural background.

Born in China in 1967, Wang moved to Japan at an early age. She eventually returned to China and attained a history degree at East China Normal University in the late 1980s. After graduation, Wang went back to Japan to study fashion. She ended up working under renowned Japanese designer Junko Koshino.

"I got my first job in Japan. Then, I went back to China in 2002 and became design director of Broadcast [a Shanghai-based fashion brand]," she said. "Now I am living in Britain."

According to Wang, her experiences living in different countries have shaped her brand and styles while her background as a history major has helped her observe humanity and manage her business in a unique way.

Wang, though, dislikes it when people call her "one of the hottest Chinese names in international fashion circles."

According to her, she is just following her instincts. As such, she hopes that people will pay more attention to how she has grown and the changes that made her who she is today, instead of labeling her. 

Debuting at New York fashion week in 2014, the 2-year-old brand, whose customers include a number of well-known political figures in both China and the US, is now planning to open its first overseas store in New York this September.

"Well, we've planned this for quite a time," said Wang.

"If the store opens as scheduled in September, we will be able to operate in varied forms across the US."