Hailing from Qingdao, a major city in eastern China, Huishan Zhang is leading the charge for a new generation of Chinese designers.
After studying in New Zealand, Paris and London, Zhang launched his eponymous collection in 2011. His feminine and elegantly constructed pieces pay tribute to the designer’s couture background, as he combines textures and fabrications that lend eastern influenced pieces a new modernity. And the industry has taken note. In 2013, Zhang was the first Chinese contemporary designer to receive the illustrious Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize.
We sat down with Huishan for more insight into his journey. The conversation follows, along with some behind-the-scenes images that reveal the beauty and expert technique inherent in Zhang’s design process.
When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
Huishan Zhang: My final year of high school, fashion design was offered in the curriculum. Once I started, I never looked back. It is the perfect medium to express my artistic visions and creativity.
Tell us about your decision to leave China and study fashion design in New Zealand.
HZ: For me, leaving China at the age of 17 was very important. I wanted to see the world. An opportunity came, not only to travel but also to fulfill my dream of being a designer. I had to take it. I got excellent training in New Zealand on the fundamentals of fashion design. I was able to focus and really learn the essential skills behind textiles and patternmaking.
How does your global experience, living in China, New Zealand, Paris and now London influence your designs?
HZ: The collection’s ethos comes from bridging my Chinese heritage and traditions with my western influences. My experiences living abroad have strengthened my platform to express my great pride in my heritage and show the beautiful craftsmanship of the culture.
What have been your biggest inspirations as a designer?
HZ: I am inspired by my heritage and the ornate craftsmanship that goes into making couture pieces for customers who truly appreciate the art that goes into each garment. Also, Maggie Cheung has been a muse since I started.
What kind of woman do you see wearing your designs?
HZ: My collections are for a romantic spirit who is in touch with her femininity. A woman who has travelled a lot and is not afraid to step away from trends.
Tell us about being a luxury brand that produces in China. What do you see for the future of Chinese manufacturing?
HZ: My heritage is full of beautiful craftsmanship and history, with a strong understanding of femininity and luxury. The great potential for Chinese talent is to take pride in these cultural traditions and express them with a modern twist. It is only a matter of time before the avant-garde taste for individuality further evolves into a homegrown “Made in China” style that will be applauded both in China and abroad.
Have things changed for those who want to be designers in China now versus when you started out?
HZ: Yes. Because the Chinese consumer is choosing younger and more up-and-coming designers and has been moving away from logo-heavy design for a long time. Due to the immense size of China we are only just beginning to see this evolution.