Discovered: A Qing Dynasty Lacoste Polo?
A bit of free advice for the billionaires: If that Ming Dynasty vase of yours hits the floor, don’t despair—just send the broken pieces to Li Xiaofeng, who specializes in making art—everything from fire extinguishers to Mao jackets—from early modern (think of it as very vintage) Chinese porcelain. Li’s handcrafted “clothes” inspired Lacoste to tap the Chinese artist to be the latest designer in its Holiday Collector’s Series, and to create both a fragment-inspired design for sellable polos and one ultra-expensive polo from the fragments themselves. One problem: Last year, China outlawed the export of any item made before 1911, including ceramic shards.
Undaunted, Li traveled to Jingdezhen, in China’s eastern Jiangxi Province, the historic capital of porcelain and the site of the ancient imperial kilns, where all the ceramics for the imperial family were fired. There he painted and fired his own ceramic bowls—some with the Lacoste crocodile alongside more traditional soldiers contemplating landscapes, orchids, bamboo, chrysanthemums, and plum blossoms—and broke his own handiwork to create pieces free to travel from the Far East back to Paris. The entire process, from painting the bowls to finally linking the 317 pieces, took three months, which makes the porcelain polo (above) the most expensive and exclusive Lacoste shirt to date. The slightly more user-friendly printed polo (below) was created from digital photographs of existing shards—fifteenth and sixteenth-century pieces from the Kangxi period of the Qing Dynasty, covered with lotus and baby patterns.
“I began buying shards at the dirt market in Beijing, and I had construction workers take me to sites six meters underground to collect shards,” Li explains of his process. “One day, I had so many I began to think, what can I do with all this? I was inspired by the Han Dynasty burial suit, a ceremonial suit made of jade pieces, and then came the Mao jacket…” Which leads, naturally, to the Lacoste polo.