The perfect blend

Updated: 2012-08-02 09:24

By The perfect blend (China Daily)

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The perfect blend

Huishan Zhang's reconstructed qipao acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Provided to China Daily

Huishan Zhang wants to break the stereotype that made in China clothes are inferior. The 29-year-old is on the road to success with his fusion designs. Tiffany Tan caught up with him in Beijing.

To many of his middle school classmates, Huishan Zhang is still "the guy who was always wearing an ugly orange jumper". Little do they know that to fashion insiders, this guy has become a couture designer to watch.


Qipao chic

Cheongsam exhibiting and promoting activity held in Shanghai

His fresh, delicate, Chinese-inspired pieces have put Zhang in the winning circle of the British Fashion Council's New Gen sponsorship scheme for emerging designers. As part of the award, the 29-year-old will be unveiling his spring summer 2013 collection in a debut presentation at the London Fashion Week this fall.

"When I first met him, I thought he was the first young designer who was a perfect creative fusion between East and West a voice we've been waiting to hear," says Sarah Mower, chairwoman of the New Gen committee and contributing editor to US Vogue.

"It was an eye-opener that he was able to produce such beautiful embroidery and lace.

"Up till then, we associated Chinese manufacturing with mass-production, and perhaps inferior quality, but Huishan is proving to the West that handcraft skills still exist in the mainland," she says. "Till then we believed that kind of embroidery work could only come out of Paris or India."

Zhang, who hails from the eastern coastal city of Qingdao and now lives in London, wants to change perceptions about his native country's craft and design. The materials for his clothes all come from China, and the garments themselves are sewn in his hometown.

"Everybody thinks Chinese design can be cliched, or made in China is supposed to be cheap, but it's not," Zhang says on the sidelines of a meeting with clients in Beijing. "We have such a long history of culture, everything is so beautiful.

"I feel it's not represented right, it just hasn't shown through enough. So I'm just trying to use my own way to show that it can be very elegant, it can be so well made."

The perfect blend

Zhang already knew in middle school that he wanted to be a fashion designer. In his last year of high school, inspired by the attire of ethnic groups he saw during travels around China, the young man honed in on what would become his design signature.

His first couture collection - after graduating from London's Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design with a bachelor's degree in fashion design and a master's in pattern cutting in 2010 - was a reconstruction of the qipao, or cheongsam. A fusion of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) fashion and early 20th century Western tailoring, Zhang re-created the dress using sheer silk, embroidered lace and sequins with reflective patterns.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has acquired one piece from his collection - a white organza with black lace embroidery of flower petals and a dragon. The museum says the dress was meant to complement and update its collection of dragon robes and 20th century qipao.

Again, it was Zhang's blending of Eastern and Western elements in a modern package that caught the attention of the V&A, regarded as the world's leading museum of art and design.

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