Designer SHANGGUAN ZHE masterfully merges his love of art with his very unique take of a fashion attire while creating the wonderfully unique world of SANKUANZ. Shangguan talks with our Fashion Features Editor KATARINA DJORIC about the start of his fashion career, fashion industry’s consumerism and his take on unisex.
How did you get into fashion and how did you come to start your own line?
I founded my studio in 2008 when I decided to become a fashion designer. I had never studied fashion design before and I knew nothing about fashion. I couldn’t even sew a button and I didn’t buy fashion items either. Yet I founded my studio.
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You’ve started your line in 2008. I guess many changes and progress happened during those 9 years, how did Sankuanz evolve since then?
I was a newbie in fashion industry when I founded my studio in 2008. So my work focused mostly on commercial design. In 2013, I decided to do something that I wanted to do. I created the brand of Sankuanz and stopped other sales. From then till now, Sankuanz is still growing and exploring. I want to use fashion to create unique forms and a distinct brand image.
You decided to present your collections at Paris fashion week from 2015. How would you compare the fashion scene in Paris to China?
To the fashion community, Paris has so many differences from China. They are all closely connected with economy, politics and culture.
You said in one interview: You will never need what I design. So, who is a Sankuanz customer?
Yes I’ve said that. There are already so many garments in this world. Fashion industry has provided human society with excessive products. Do we really need that many clothes? All the young people are going after vanity trends and buying a lot of fashion items, the price of which so much higher than their value. Yet in a few months, they would just end as a pile of garbage in the wardrobe. If what we create is just one more item coming out the fashion industry, what is the meaning of our creation then?
I hope that my clients are not buying Sankuanz for a good-looking or fashionable garment. To put it simply, I don’t want them to buy Sankuanz just for the clothes. I want them to gain a complete experience from Sankuanz. And I am not just designing clothes. I am trying to create a grander narrative with the help of fashion. For me, it is a method to approach eternity and to extend the boundaries of creation.
Fashion is like a bridge. It can be a pretty bridge, but its ultimate meaning is to help you to reach the other side.
Could you describe your design process from the moodboard to picking out fabrics to production?
It is similar to the process of writing an essay. Usually I would first pick up a theme that I’m interested in at the time, like “science & technology” or “painting”. Then I would look for a smaller subject under the theme for further research and discussion, like “the relationship of science&tech and religion” or “the sanctity of painting” etc. For the following step, I would conduct detailed research and then enter the phase of design, using concrete forms to represent my exploration of the subject.
You mix classical references with pop elements. Is there a connection between your collections?
There probably is [laughs]. Sometimes there are big differences between my collections as well. I think I’m very curious about this world and I’d like to keep trying new things. It might not be good for the commercial side though.
So, what are you fascinated with at the moment?
Recently I’m fascinated with classic paintings and sculptures.
You said that cultural observation and cultural knowledge are very important for the designer. Do you think fashion can still influence society?
Designing techniques to a designer is like words to an orator. What do you want to tell with your words? Poetry? History? An unfunny joke? Techniques do count, as well as words. But I think what matters most is what the designer wants to express, the content.
I think fashion mirrors the contemporary society and reflects our expectation of the future. It has never stopped to influence society. It absorbs and exports constantly in its own way and contributes to culture progress and concept innovation.
You present your collection on PFW Men’s, but you define it as unisex. So, I guess there are no plans for womenswear collection…?
That is not true. The boundary between menswear and womenswear becomes less and less distinct. Yet I think it only happens in form. Concerning the relationship between clothing and gender, menswear design is still very different from womenswear. I do hope that I will try womenswear design in the future.
Who is the most inspiring person in the fashion industry for you today and why?
I think there is very few designers whose work go beyond the limits of time and space and beyond dressing codes. Rei Kawakubo is one among the few.
What are your next projects?
Completion of the design for spring summer 2018.