China was the original source of silk. But now the direction of the ancient silk road traffic which first brought this fabled fibre to Europe is being reversed. For what the present Chinese fashion industry seeks most keenly are the silk substitutes that originated in the west. So says Judith Chau, senior design executive of Shanghai Tang, a major force in the move to put China on the international fashion map. "We haven't of course wholly abandoned our ancestral interest in silk," says Judith. "But the practicalities of manmade fibres with silky handles such as Tencel make us eager to combine these with genuine silk in outfits which suit the present day lifestyle. "Our own label was one of the first to suggest to Chinese consumers that one could mix fabrics and garment styles and still be regarded as retaining one's good taste. "Now we are beginning to introduce other new elements into the Chinese style of dressing - most particularly this season fabrics which use modern geometric motifs instead of the floral motifs more familar to consumers in China."