Confidential Insight from Xander Zhou
Xander Zhou, the young designer for Beijing, is taking up greater space and appeal with each new collection. With Spring 2019 taking place somewhere extraterrestrial, we brought him back down to earth to gain some insight from that complex brain so ahead of our time.
Joe: What was life like in your earlier years?
Xander: I had a rather liberal childhood. When I came of age I decided to go see something of the world, partly because I was not sure what to do.
Where did you discover your artistic abilities?
I taught myself traditional Chinese painting as a child. Also, the first time I made clothes for myself was also before attending any courses. When I cook a dish I never tried before, I usually get it quite right the first time.
Did you start in any other artistic mediums?
Absolutely. I have also participated in the creation of artistic videos, and I do creative consulting or artistic direction for other brands and campaigns. I do not necessarily only express my creativity in the clothes I design. I see myself more as a visual artist, whose dominant medium at this time happens to be fashion. But for me, there is only a very thin line between the different ways I create.
When was the moment you realized you needed to be a fashion designer?
I think from around the time I discovered that the clothes I had made by tailors in China as a student sometimes were ahead of fashion trends.
- Jacket and fur stole by Xander Zhou, Roll neck bodysuit by Wolford, Gloves by Dents, Choker by Louise Ferdinando
I learned that you studied industrial design before pursuing fashion. Are there any industrial elements you implement in your designs?
Undoubtedly there are some, but perhaps not that many. After all, I did not study industrial design for very long. It did perhaps change my view on fashion itself. I never really felt I am looking at fashion from a purely fashion angle. I like creating new things, but I like the idea of creating ‘fashion’ less. I prefer to see myself as someone on the periphery of fashion.
Cultural influence is an evident aspect of your work. How would you define its role in your process? Is there any cultural clash, or is it more cooperative?
I never ponder too much on the issue of culture or heritage. Our generation is migrating between places and cultures. The effect that being exposed to a new environment has on one’s thinking and creative processes is perhaps sometimes more profound than the effect of the culture you find yourself in at that time. Regarding my own cultural heritage, I think in my work I went through the stages: ‘ignorant,’ ‘in denial,’ and ‘reconnecting’.
Where is your happy place?
Right now, having an ‘ordinary life’ is my happy place.
What is your office like?
It has a huge desk, lots of light, and music. I can work there wearing my most comfortable clothes.
- Jacket and roll neck by Xander Zhou, Gloves by Dents, Tights by Wolford, Earrings by Louise Ferdinando Vintage
What do you pull inspiration from when approaching a design?
I try to document almost on a daily basis the thoughts and feelings I have while seeing or encountering new things. This documentation is not necessarily in a written form, it can also be sketches. But it helps me to record what goes on in my mind in such a way that it helps me remember and keep track of any developments. These "notes" are often the basis when I am designing a new collection. I never have a lack of inspiration - it is literally flowing all the time. So this way of keeping track helps me to sort things out in a more structured way, and build on the structures that I discover.
Key words/phrases to describe yourself?
Loves to fantasise, strong-willed, sensitive, rebellious.
Does your brand represent you, or is it more of a separate entity?
I don’t think I can even properly represent myself, let alone my brand. My brand is only part of who I am. That is also because being a fashion designer is only part of who I am, but each of my collections is a personal reflection on fashion at a given time. So, in that sense, it does represent my thoughts.
Authenticity is big for you. Is it vital to your process?
I like both very authentic and extremely unauthentic things, and the tension between those. Sometimes, they go together very well. I like to play with details of the mundane, so that when I change the slightest things, I can create the biggest effect of turning something authentic into completely inauthentic.
Did you ever expect to have the impact you have left and are still currently imprinting into the industry?
To be honest, I still don't know if I am making any impact and what that impact would be. I do feel that online media platforms are giving me more credit than traditional media, which seems about right. What I see from online reactions - what I think people like about me - is that I am quite direct in expressing my thoughts. I am not burdened by any culture or try to use culture as an instrument. And that my clothes are not for sale everywhere.
- Jacket, roll neck and glasses by Xander Zhou, Gloves by Dents
What/who are you grateful for?
I grateful to my mother for giving birth to me. But it would be nice if I could start all over again.
Where is the trajectory taking you?
Honestly, I have no idea. And that is a good thing. It keeps me curious and excited about what is coming next.
What is your mission?
My only mission is expressing how I see the world around me. It can be an expression of hope, of denial, or of not taking it seriously. In this age of real life shows, I think what I am trying to express is ‘how to find true love and happiness.’
If you had to offer sage advice to live a fulfilling life:
Be sure to ask yourself what it is you really want. It is extremely difficult to find the answer; but once you have it, it is the key to happiness. And: it is okay to enjoy beautiful bubbles; but you need to make sure not to become a bubble yourself.
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