The perfect blend

Updated: 2012-08-02 09:24

By The perfect blend (China Daily)

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"Though Chinese in spirit, Huishan Zhang's designs have an international appeal, which I feel is important," says Helen Persson, curator of the museum's Asian department, who discovered Zhang's work on the pages of Elle UK and British Vogue.

"Furthermore, his work promotes high-quality traditional Chinese craftsmanship," she says.

Though Zhang draws heavily from Chinese culture, he does not want to beam a spotlight on that creative inspiration.

"The beauty of this Chinese and Western cultural combination is, it is not really obvious," the designer says. "Also, this is modern life. We're creating something new, rather than something costumey. That's why lots of times the spirit (of the culture) should be there, but not really the actual form."

Zhang is among a new breed of mainland designers, including Uma Wang and Masha Ma, who are beginning to make ripples in the European fashion scene. But, analysts say, there's still a lot of work ahead for Chinese designers who want to capture that market.

"At the moment, the perception in Europe is that Chinese designers will do updated versions of 'Chinese traditional', and consumers still don't see them having the credibility of brands like Prada, Gucci, Versace and so on," Sandra Halliday, editor in chief of the London-based fashion trend analysis and research service WGSN, says.

"For most European consumers, the focus is still on European or American brands, with Chinese labels still a quirky option with a 'dressing up' feel to them."

In the past 12 years, Zhang has lived in New Zealand, France (where he interned at Christian Dior for a year) and England. The designer's long-term goal is to bring his label back to China - but he wants to do more prep work first.

"I want to impress people here more," he says. "It's a very big market. There are lots of driving forces here. It's like sailing. If you have a small boat in a very big sea, you have a very high chance of sinking. But if you're driving a big, big boat, then it's safer."

Despite falling in love with the creations of Miuccia Prada and Yohji Yamamoto (he was wearing a navy blue Prada top during the interview), Zhang has not forgotten the notorious orange jumper from his youth.

"I just love to be different," he says. "I was always the one who went to school without a uniform, who always ended up standing in the corner because I didn't follow the rules.

"Many classmates nowadays don't remember my name. But they remember the guy who was always wearing the ugly orange jumper."

That rebellious streak, stemming from a creative impulse to make his distinctive mark, has served Zhang well.

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