DESIGNER TO WATCH – HUISHAN ZHANG
Although he has just been named by the BOF 500 as one who is shaping the Global Fashion Industry, and has the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren wearing his designs, Huishan Zhang still is fashion’s best-kept secret “…so far anyone who has found us has had to search for us and discover us... I don’t agree with pushing my product in people’s faces if it is something of no interest to them“. We have met the promising Central Saint Martins-trained designer and talked about his time at Dior, life as an entrepreneur and Chinese craftsmanship…
“I hope that I am being watched for my true appreciation for luxury in fashion – couture techniques and approach to dressmaking is very important to me as important as is making it for a woman who appreciates that. I hope to bridge the gap between Chinese tradition and culture and Western influences to create a new way to look at fashion and how beautifully cultures work together.” Huishan Zhang
WTL: Which three words sum up what HUISHAN ZHANG stands for?
HZ: Feminine. Romantic. Culture.
WTL: How would you describe the signature of your label?
HZ: A bridge between western influences and Chinese traditions.
WTL: Can you name a few signature items synonymous with HUISHAN ZHANG?
HZ: The dragon dress (currently part of the permanent collection at the V&A Museum) – taken from the classic Chinese robe – the use of lace is signature for my brand too.
WTL: What kind of woman is wearing your designs?
HZ: Cultured, not afraid to stand-alone and not be part of trends, elegant, confident. I design for a woman who understands the beauty in the artisanal approach to creating collections with a couture foundation.
WTL: In a dream world, whom do you want to see wearing your designs?
HZ: It has always been Maggie Chueng.
WTL: If you could describe your label as a single piece of clothing, what would it be?
WTL: Who inspires you?
HZ: Anyone who is not afraid to believe in their look is inspirational. Especially people who aren’t afraid to combine cultural references and celebrate them.
WTL: What was your inspiration and theme for your autumn / winter collection?
HZ: Everything has two sides to it – beauty is in the eye of the beholder…
WTL: What are the most challenging materials and shapes to work with?
HZ: Lace is so delicate and feminine so you never want to over do it. Also, I try to be careful when exposing enough of the Chinese shapes and cuts that they don’t overpower the theme of the collections but feel modern and fresh and blend well with Western influences.
WTL: What are the future plans for your label?
HZ: To grow internationally and to keep spreading the message of East meets West in the luxury market.
WTL: What are the milestones in your life that have inspired you to become a designer?
HZ: It’s the only thing I remember ever wanting to be from a very young age. I always wanted to be a designer…
WTL: If you could start all over again – what would you do differently?
HZ: Nothing! It all got me to where I am today.
WTL: What was the biggest lesson you have learned as an entrepreneur?
HZ: Listen to your instinct and work very very hard.
WTL: What advice would you give to young designers who want to launch their own label?
HZ: Don’t be afraid to have a point of view – a message that is yours to share with the world!
WTL: Which fashion designers have inspired you on your journey?
HZ: John Galliano… McQueen…
WTL: Can you tell us a bit about your time at Dior?
HZ: I was very lucky as I was selected by Delphine Arnault during my time at CSM to join. I spent 6 months working with the head of leather goods to then be able to work in the couture Atelier for the following 6 months. It was a very magical time and felt like everything I had ever imagined it to be like.
WTL: What was your biggest career moment so far?
HZ: Every season feels like the biggest career moment… every show… every prize… every nomination every new customer…
WTL: What are your tips to balance work and private life?
HZ: I wish I knew …
WTL: What do you do that’s just for you?
HZ: I think when your work is born from a passion and you are lucky enough to do this as a career the worlds of work and private life feel like one and it is a gift to be able to continue on this path… not sure how balanced it is though?
WTL: How important is social media for you personally and for your work?
HZ: So far, we have felt like a best-kept secret as we know that anyone who has found us has had to search for us and discover us because of a love of fashion or luxury. I don’t agree with pushing my product in people’s faces if it is something of no interest to them. Saying that, social media has played a great part at keeping friends and family of the brand in the loop.
WTL: An important social media vehicle surely is Instagram. What do you love about it?
HZ: I love that it is visual and instant… almost dreamlike.
WTL: And is there anything you would like to change?
HZ: All the beautiful holidays my friends are on and the delicious food pictures are tough to look at when you are working late in the studio…;)
WTL: What in life makes a fire burn inside of you?
HZ: …my collections!
WTL: What describes you better: daydreamer or realist?
HZ: I think that this is the one thing I am pretty balanced in… definitely a bit of both!
WTL: What style advice would you give?
HZ: Be true to yourself and don’t get pushed in any direction that doesn’t feel right to you. If you don’t feel confident don’t wear it!
WTL: Can you describe your personal style?
HZ: Understated, relaxed.
WTL: How does your heritage influence your designs?
HZ: My Chinese traditions and craftsmanship influence a huge part of my collections – they are usually the roots of each one.
WTL: What do you like to do when you are not designing?
HZ: Hang out with friends… SLEEP!
WTL: What could you not live without?
HZ: My Family.
WTL: What is your idea of happiness?
HZ: Spending time with my family.
WTL: What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
HZ: Loyalty, trust and a sense of humor – we have to laugh.
WTL: What is your dream destination you love to travel to?
HZ: I travel all the time back to China, and visiting my friends and family in Qingdao is always lovely. I recently visited the US for the first time – NY and LA and absolutely loved it.
WTL: And what do you love about London?
HZ: The multi cultured side to it. You have everything here in one big melting pot. Also, the buildings and different areas are so unique in their characteristics.
WTL: If you could shop anywhere in the world, where would it be?
HZ: I actually love shopping in London for the amount of choices – quirky, elegant, luxury, vintage…
WTL: What is your least favorite part of the day?
HZ: Waking up super early…
WTL: Where do you go for inspiration, peace of mind?
HZ: Inspiration comes out of nowhere sometimes, so you can never really predict it. But I do love to wander around museums and art galleries.
WTL: When you were a child you dreamed you would grow up to be…
HZ: …a fashion designer!
WTL: If you could leave us with one thought, what would it be?
HZ: Enjoy your culture and your surroundings and let it inspire you.