Victor Zhu, who, along with Nicole Lin, is the brains behind Shenzhen-based fashion label Vmajor, talks about being a Woolmark Prize finalist and the challenges of working with Chinese factories.
What was it like to be a finalist for this year's International Woolmark Prize? "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and still feels like a dream come true. The design process was the most exciting part, especially trying different techniques with wool and seeing what new ideas would come as a result. The judges loved this and were surprised that we could produce such high-end garments in China."
How has Shenzhen influenced your brand? "Shenzhen is a manufacturing base, which helps us to translate our ideas into actual products. The factory we've been working with used to produce goods for cheap, mass-production labels, but now they are starting to work with small companies like us. They are professional and experienced, which is great. We give them new ideas, too, so it's a win-win situation."
What are the challenges in running a small Chinese fashion brand? "One area is building a team as fast as possible, as both of us are attending to so many tasks, such as talking to the media. Finding good-quality manufacturing partners can be quite tough: we are not a super-famous brand, a factory's minimum order can be too high, and we have little power to negotiate price."
You met Lin while interning at Vivienne Westwood. What was your first impression of her? "When we saw each other we knew we were two peas in a pod. At the beginning, I didn't talk much to her because she has such a cool demeanour. But slowly we developed a mutual kinship. It's a bit like looking in the mirror."