Annachiara Biondi, Fashion Editor of Elsewhere magazine guest blogs on the emergent Chinese designers championing craftsmanship as a key to success.
In a world saturated with ever changing trends and an endless quest for the most sensational novelty, how can young designers keep being relevant without recurring to easy visibility? A number of young Chinese designers have found their answer in researching and developing innovative techniques that combine advanced craftsmanship, a skilled knowledge of textiles and a remarkable attention to details to forge unmistakably different and personally unique signature styles. The result is highly valuable and instantly recognisable designs, often individually made and always of the highest quality.
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Shaoxing-born Xuzhi has found a way to translate his love for art, colours and prints onto his designs by fashioning an innovative braiding technique that allows him to approach his creations as paintings – just on a different canvas. The technique consists in hand-braiding pieces of yarn into braids that are then stitched and embroidered onto garments following specific patterns, creating a subtle texture of 3D brush strokes that requires each single piece to be individually made. The designer first devised the technique during his second year of college in an effort to represent the ocean using blue wool, an experiment that has become a trademark of his work. First using chiffon, cotton and ribbon, Xuzhi has found yarn to be the best option to create the fringe effect of his past collections, but his exploration of new suitable materials is ongoing. Xuzhi will be showcasing some of these new examples in his upcoming SS17 presentation for London Fashion Week.
For Tommy Zhong and Jenny Nelson, the young dynamic duo behind Tommy Zhong, the focus has always been on how to combine avant-garde imagery and wearability to design pieces that champion simple cuts and shapes, but are still intrinsically unique. Their instrument of choice is a close collaboration with visual artists and textile designers to create original artworks that are transferred onto the garments using an array of different techniques such as screen printing, foiling, flocking, hand-painting and, for SS17, digital weave. “By using techniques that are as hands on as screen printing we can generate something more unique to the brand – each piece is basically one off. We like that every piece may not look the same and to create something from scratch only for us.”
Craftsmanship, historical references and sustainable materials – these are the cornerstones of Renli Su, a brand that proudly puts textiles at the centre of its narrative. Her past collections have featured handwoven fabrics made through a collaboration with villagers in China, India and Tibet, combining their traditional techniques with the designer’s expertise and using found ramie, a natural fibre popular in China in the early 90s. For her AW16 collection, Renli has stepped up her craftsmanship game with a modern take on crewelwork, the free-embroidery technique popular from 17th century Britain to the Victorian era, creating a contemporary 3D effect using thicker yarns and applying it onto unconventional materials, such as wool.