It is globally accepted, nay expected, in the fashion world, that if you graduate from Central Saint Martins you will be a star in your chosen field. The latest to experience this stratospheric success in women’s fashion is Huishan Zhang, China-born, globally traveled and London-based for the last twelve years. Brought to Kuwait by Bloomingdale’s, bazaar was lucky enough to get a personal tour of the Resort 2018 collection by the man himself. It is a delight to discover how the Huishan Zhang brand supports other creatives and talents too, something bazaar likes to do as well.
As we sit down and prepare to discuss the collection it seems only polite to welcome the designer to Kuwait and proffer heartfelt congratulations on the recent opening of the Mayfair flagship, the very first bricks and mortar space for the label. There is a temporary wall raised in the Bloomingdale’s Personal Shopping area that is a photographic replica of the wall present at the London boutique. Huishan commissioned plaster and concrete artist Rachel Dein to complete the wall work in the boutique.
Huishang Zhang Atelier Instagram post with @leaf_greener against an embossed wall of the Mayfair boutique
With her botanical inspiration, often found in her very own garden, the result is a feature of quintessential British flowers. Together Zhang and Dein chose the very blooms which would be embossed onto the boutique walls, something he found to be very personal and intimate to do. The end result gives the feel of a very British, “Country Garden”.“I wanted something special, also a tribute to something original and…I was amazed by how much love Rachel put into it.” explains the designer, with great affection and admiration in his voice for Dein’s work.
What is it you love about London and why make London your base?
As a young person, every student wants to go to Central Saint Martins. Galliano, McQueen, the pannier that you admire is all from that particular school. It’s not the fame they create, it’s the philosophy [the school] created that really inspired me. After graduating from university in New Zealand, I really wanted to set up my own brand, and coming to London was really step one. I already had this idea before Saint Martins; I really wanted to have my own brand and do things my own way to love something that special, and I felt that London is where you can do that.
London’s heyday was in the sixties, and there’s a lot of 1960s nod in your collections.
The sixties somehow always remain. You think about Audrey Hepburn and all those classic movies, that’s the era that always draws my attention. A designer always references something that is special to you. I feel inspired by that era. The whole idea of that era was that rules are being broken, everything is new, but, somehow the classic elegance remains. At the time, it was a revolution!
Given that you have this knowledge of women across the globe, who do you think the Kuwaiti woman is, and how does she dress?
I feel that Huishan Zhang women, no matter where they are from or what they do, share things like their love of craftsmanship, that’s our brand specialty. Kuwaiti women are well-traveled, they come to Paris and London…globally my customers, they literally are living similar lifestyles. They are celebrating life every day with elegance, and hopefully, they are going to wear lots of Huishan Zhang doing it!
What do you feel is the perfect accessory for your clothes?
A pair of shoes! In a way, I almost want to pair something with a trainer. I just feel that effortless elegance means that my clothes can fit very easily with something that makes a woman feel comfortable. You literally can dress up, and dress down these pieces. There are pieces that you can wear as a dress or just pull on with a pair of jeans and pair with trainers and you can also wear that same piece with a pair of heels and pretty much it’s become eveningwear or special occasion. Our pieces are always sharing this different “fashionality” [fashion personality] in the collections.
Is there a favorite piece of yours in this collection?
Well, it’s difficult to say, as they are all my favorite piece but actually the “Jodie” dress has been so special to us. It is a shape that we have carried for 3 years, so nine seasons. We have that dress in every single color and texture: jacquard, lace, chiffon, organza, transparent, covered, sleeveless…it’s really the house signature
Close up of the Jodie dress Resort 2018 jacquard detailing
As you expand into other markets, are there things about the customer that you will design for, or do you expect them to take your designs and adapt them to how they wear fashion?
I think that I listen to what the customer wants, that’s how we even begin to start to design. I want the customer to really appreciate that they can take whatever belongs to them from the collection. Working with local partners like Bloomingdale’s, their feedback on what customers want really helps too, and it’s interesting for us to see what they choose. We want women to create their own look through the collection, rather than people selling them that already “set look”; I’m very much against that as a designer.
Although it has been 30 minutes, time flies when you are having fun and there is only a short time left to go through the Resort 2018 collection with Zhang. He shows us a pair of black lace, pearl-adorned trousers, and when I flip them over to look at the back, I’m impressed! How clever it is to not have the pearls on the back of the trousers! “I like our customers to be able to sit down,” he laughs. This is a detail which shows that he thinks about the functionality of his clothes and how customers are going to use them. These are garments which are designed to be worn and not just Instagram pictured.
It’s not a Huishan Zhang piece without at least a pearl or an ostrich feather, although the Spring Summer collection is moving into a polka dot theme (again very sixties) with decoration of massive sequins on the clothes. As “resort” is transitional (moving from one season into another), you still get to experience the feathery flare of fun that the luxury label is known for. There is a stunning coat with a Mandarin collar that would be military if it were not for the large pearl buttons and long, thin ostrich feathers sewn down the length of the jacket skirt. You can shake this piece around from the hanger and not one spare feather flies off, not an easy feat when working with this type of embellishment.
Tiered dresses with ruffled layers and polka dots that give a hint of the collection to come; pleated pants; jackets with detachable tulle skirts; infinity cut-out patterned dresses with adorable detailing on the ties of the sleeves; waterfall-hem shifts edged with large, black feathers so dark they sheen from purple to green, this collection is so much fun.
As always, the feature of eclectic juxtaposition is testimony to the diversity within the range, and women of any age can enjoy these pieces. It is thoroughly refreshing to hear a designer talk about how much he wants his customers to use his clothes to explore their very own style. It’s the perfect combination being with Bloomingdale’s as they are all about enjoying fashion and celebrating individuality. This holiday season head over to Bloomingdale’s and the Huishan Zhang Resort 2018 Collection to explore all there is to offer in sartorial luxury. Glow what fun!