Born in Milan, raised in China, and living in New York, designer Chenghui Zhang evokes traditional themes and repurposes them for a modern audience. We ask the designer about how her personal experience shapes her work.
When did your love of Fashion begin?
I never intended to be a fashion designer. I always wanted to be a fiction writer, ever since I was eight. I love to tell stories, short stories, love stories and suspenseful stories. In middle school, I start to publish some work in some magazine. However, in high school I started to take art classes. Since then I realized fashion is also a platform to tell more personal stories and strong statements. Then I moved to New York for Parsons.
How has your heritage, of being Italian born but raised in China affected your design aesthetics?
I was born in Milan, in a neighborhood that had a lot of traditional Italian families. I was baptized as Catholic while my parents were part of the communist party and worked for the government. It definitely influenced me in terms of how I value the world. My family is a mixture of liberal and conservative minds. My mom came from a very liberal and well-educated family. When I was young she taught me the importance of culture and history, and she brought me to countries around the world and showed me the importance of keeping an open mind. My dad came from a very traditional family, where they never truly valued the importance of art and culture. Because my family is a mixture of working class and upper class, and being able to grow up in an environment where the culture clash is at its most extreme, that gave me a unique perspective on art and culture.
What are you inspired by?
I’m inspired a lot by uniforms, the working-class, modern history, modern art and politics. I love the period of 1960-1990 China, how the period valued the importance of the working class. I also love Marcel Duchamp where he references mundane objects to redefine our current system.
How did going to Parsons and receiving the CFDA scholarship help your fashion career?
Parson created a great platform for me to get to know lots of great teachers and peers. It is a great school that has so much opportunity for a young artist to get real industry experiences. I use CFDA scholarship to help me fund my thesis collection. This is a great opportunity for me to be part of the industry while I was still at school.
For your thesis, you tracked 30 years of Globalization through the eyes of your grandmother. Why did you choose her as your subject matter?
I started this collection because my grandma had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade. I want to create something of value to my family. However, my grandparents have passed away during my thesis year, this subject becomes the last thing that I use to celebrate their history and life.
What’s one piece of clothing that you think every woman should own?
I get most requests from the orange cotton jumpsuit from FW17. It is a utilitarian piece that can easily adapt to different sizes. All my pieces are gender neutral pieces. However, the pieces that I think every woman should own is the working wear inspired cashmere sweater from my SS18. Is made of 100% cashmere and is a bridge between sportswear and workwear. It will fit the group of people that are interested in both aesthetics.
Could you tell us about your latest Collection?
This SS18 collection is a preview capsule collection before we launch our brand in March 2018. We will be launching our brand “Social-work” in New York around March. In this collection, SS18, I explore the social change in the early 90s’ in China. When China first opened its market to foreign countries, sportswear and workwear are the two styles that dominated 1990’s China. Consumerism had reached its maximum. By combining the two styles and also using street Asian models and high fashion models, I create a reimagining of that image and bring the audience back to the beginning of the 1990s.
Photo by: Reven Lei @reven_lei
Style by: Fangjie Wang @afangvision
Art direction: @qiwangg
Makeup by: @agnes_makeupartist
Set design: @afangvision
Production assistant: @zhiyaosu @linzean