How Mad Men and Wes Anderson inspired Chinese fashion duo’s darkly feminine collection
Chengdu pair behind Shushu/Tong’s prim high necklines, peplums and voluminous Victorian sleeves have been inspired by pop culture’s quirky femme fatales
There’s a major buzz about Shanghai’s independent fashion scene at the moment. Changing the landscape are young Chinese designers, with many having returned to China after being educated at famed British fashion schools such as Central Saint Martins or the London College of Fashion (LCF).
A number of successful design duos have emerged over the past five years, but the LCF alumni behind contemporary brand Shushu/Tong stand out as a particularly cohesive unit.
Chengdu natives Lei Liushu (Shushu) and Jiang Yutong (Tong) founded the brand in 2015 after being friends for almost a decade.
Together they make outfits inspired by the quirkiest of femme fatales. For their autumn-winter 2018 collection, the millennials look to eccentric characters – Peggy Olson in Mad Men or Wes Anderson’s Margot Tenenbaum – while fusing in elements of both Chinese and British vintage school uniforms.
The balance created between the signature girlie details and curious fabric volumes and structures has attracted high-profile fans such as Chinese key opinion leader Leaf Greener.
“The spirit of London is very free. People embrace themselves. I think it’s crucial that we make designs that we feel connect to ourselves,” Lei says.
“We’re pretty close,” he says of their partnership. “We actually went to the same high school, did our BA in the same class, and went to London College of Fashion together. And we’ve been classmates as well as flatmates.”
Their shared attitude towards design and fashion, as well as time in London, results in a brand signature that’s ultra sweet and feminine, yet darkly offbeat. The bold looks aren’t for everyone, but they are distinctive and popular enough to be stocked in serious retailers like Lane Crawford, SSense and London’s Dover Street Market.
“The clothes I design is how I would want to dress if I were a girl,” Lei says.
“I love romantic ruffles and bows, so I want to use these elements to create something new,” Jiang says.
When they’re not playing video games or navigating their favourite tree-lined roads and restaurants in Shanghai, Jiang says their inspiration comes mostly from their daily lives, for example “details from a movie, a magazine, or randomly from what people wear on the street”.
Prim high necklines, peplums and voluminous, Victorian-inspired sleeves don’t look a bit frumpy when paired with a deconstructed skirt and workwear details. Feminine tropes like the corset are twisted to give garments a new meaning, while quirky tailoring comes alive with oversized bows, as seen in their latest collection.
Look closely at their work and you will find small hints of their training at London labels like Simone Rocha and Gareth Pugh, where Lei and Jiang respectively did stints before forming Shushu/Tong.
The energy and freedom of London made the pair realise how important it is to be open-minded, but as influential as the British city was in the formation of Shushu/Tong, China is still their premier market and place of creative inspiration. Their catwalk shows at Shanghai Fashion Week’s Labelhood venue were filled with Chinese style influencers who have been driving their fan base.
“The scene here is really exciting – we’re very proud of what is happening in Chinese fashion now,” Jiang says.