Huishan Zhang: The Sophisticate
Huishan Zhang has cornered the market in dreamy dresses. Which is actually something of a surprise to see in London, home of the loud and the bold and the student crazy. Not him. He does romance, he does elegance and he does delicate femininity. Pre-show and this can all be gracefully seen as his confectionary creations line the corridor. There are pearl-laden gowns, the flickering of feathers, a huge fuzzy coat in lilac and pink; trails of ribbon that lead you back to dresses that could have come straight from Little House on The Prairie; and pleated pretty skirts.
Huishan Zhang Ready To Wear Fall Winter 2017 Fashion Show in London (by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)
Backstage and with minus 45 minutes until show time, Zhang is equally as at ease and serene as his designs suggest. The last touches of make-up are happening, phones are being charged and a walk-though has just happened. And so we take a seat.
“It’s been a wonderful couple of years,” remarks the designer, one of Central Saint Martins’ recent star alumna, one who has managed the long fashion haul, and is still very much in it. “You just have to be patient, you always have to celebrate and be happy every step of the way. It’s like planting a seed and watching it grow,” he describes. “If you do your homework you always get a reward,” is another way he puts it.
Well Zhang has certainly been doing his homework. It has been non-stop ever since he graduated back in 2010. And in fact it was during a pre-show meet that his star wattage could be clocked. It’s in fact where I first met him, wowed by his beautifully feminine designs that called upon what has become a signature East-meets-West sensibility. And it was pieces from that collection that were quickly snapped up by the Victoria & Albert Museum for their own permanent collection. But the accolades haven’t stopped there – that was just the beginning. There was Zhang scooping The Dorchester Prize in London for the spring/summer 2014 season, he was nominated for the LVMH Designer Prize in 2015 and he’s now been nominated for the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund for 2017. “It’s really nice and exciting,” he says, clutching his coffee cup. Half an hour to go.
One can’t help but feel then, with such success and with such an eveningwear-anchored point of view, is London where he wants to be? “I feel very comfortable here. For me, London isn’t even fully explored, there is so much possibility, so many things you can do. I’m certainly not fed up here and the more I discover the more I fall in love with the city.” And love is certainly a theme to be found among this collection - it's a little bit whimsical, a little bit bohemian.
“I re-watched the film Chocolat [with Johnny Depp], that feeling of romance,” he points out. “Love, hate, up and down, the things you feel every day.” But for Zhang, it always comes back to the garment, that itself the inspiration even. “The cut is everything for me, construction and technique.”
What’s nice about this collection though is that it’s a carry-on from Pre-Fall 2017, and an expansion of his existing repertoire of pretty, which continues further through the addition of knit and oversized cape jumpers. And with that, it’s time to take our seats and see what all this means and looks like on the catwalk. Show time.