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Fashion

Silky, fluffy, heavy, light: six Chinese designers celebrate wool’s versatility

  • The Woolmark Company celebrates its 50th anniversary by showcasing the latest innovations in wool
  • Uma Wang, Ban Xiaoxue and Ms Min collections among those featured
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 November, 2018, 3:05pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 November, 2018, 7:08pm

Warm, thick and fluffy – these are probably the first words that come to mind when thinking about wool. But six Chinese designers have set out to change perceptions of the material with their latest collections, created to celebrate The Woolmark Company’s 50th anniversary in Shanghai.

“It’s a gift from God,” says Uma Wang of wool.

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“It’s an element almost like water and air. It is so accessible that we often become unaware of it. But I don't think any designer in the industry can create without using the material,” says Wang, whose eponymous label has gained a niche following around the world and she has shown at the Milan and Paris fashion weeks.

Although she is based in Shanghai, Wang owns a mill in Italy where she and her team conduct experiments and study different materials, improving their comfort level, altering their appearance and changing their malleability.

For this collection, she paired merino wool with cotton and silk, moulding the materials almost as if to create a sculpture. The resulting pieces take interesting forms.

Intended to be half masculine and half feminine, each features a contrast in textures, with ripped seams to give off an unfinished look.

Designer Ban Xiaoxue, a former winner of the International Woolmark Prize Asia, takes a more subtle approach. At first sight, his designs look like your regular jumpers.

Heavy and woolly, they feature woven patterns inspired by flowing waters, and hanging tassels. But upon closer inspection, you notice squares of fluorescent mesh hidden under the woolly top layer.

“I like how they clash. The original undyed wool represents nature while the fluorescent mesh is very futuristic,” says Ban.

The collection by Ms Min, who made a name for herself outside China when she was invited to the Met Gala in New York in 2014, is consistent with her usual style – elegant and feminine.

Lightweight and silky, the fabric looks like anything but wool, which is exactly what Min Liu was trying to achieve.

“With advancing technology, wool can be made fluid and breathable,” says Liu, who used wool to create four designs that are more suitable for spring and summer than the colder seasons. Infused with two per cent real silk, her garments also give off a sheen that usually cannot be found in wool.

Their fluidity may not be very obvious on mannequins, but Liu reassures us that “they move beautifully when you are in action”.