CHINA : Mei Mei clothing
Text & Photography by Eric Pasquier
If you are looking for a modern-day Cinderella story then Salina Reinoehl is your woman. Hers is a rag to riches story with a twist – the former cleaner has ended up, like the fairy godmother, creating clothes fit for a princess.
Shanghai-born Salina started out as a lowly cleaner in a clothing store.
But her face was her fortune. A producer from Chinese television spotted her and asked her to take part in a film. Soon she was a successful actress, travelling the world making films and television series.
In Germany she met her Prince Charming and married, having two daughters.
Like Cinderella, she wore a beautiful gown - a qipao, a traditional Chinese dress, figure-hugging with sumptuous embroidery.
In the German town where she settled, she was known as ‘Madame Qipao’.
That’s where the similarities with Cinderella end. For Salina decided to leave Germany and return to Shanghai to set up a company making qipao even more beautiful than her own.
The result was Meimei Clothing, where Salina designs, manufactures and sells wonderful Chinese silk dresses.
Two take pride of place. One features 1,000 dragons, curled around an indigo background.
The other has 999 pink and blue phoenixes embroidered onto a delicate egg-shell white. It took nine months for 40 skilled needlewomen to make the two dresses, from 2,000,000 km of silk thread.
Salina created them to kick off the business in style, and she was rewarded with a listing in that year’s Guinness Book of Records.
Since then her boutique has become the place where China’s new entrepreneurs buy fine gowns and fancy jackets - all of which can be customized with hand-made embroidery.
Salina pays her workers more than the average wage in Shangai, hoping to attract the best embroiderers. Her business has grown to include six shops in Shanghai, and she exports to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada, England, Singapore and France.
She hopes that as China’s economy grows, Meimei will become a household name – and she can expand her empire and open a Paris boutique.
“No matter how long it takes me to make my dream come true, I will never give up pursuing my dreams,” she says.