How do you approach the brand in a different way?
I always keep in mind the DNA of the brand and translate it into a cool way that’s relevant to our everyday life. The DNA is strong. At Shanghai Tang, we have very iconic elements such as the ‘qipao’ silhouette. But there are a million ways to reinvent those elements in a modern way. It’s great also for me because of the rich archive, images and artisans that can inspire my works. I try to stay close to what this brand is, because I think it’s important to respect the history of 20 years, and at the same time, to push far out, each season a little bit more to show you know the newness.
Watch: Korean star Jin Goo in Hong Kong for Shanghai Tang sunglasses launch
What’s the biggest challenge for you as the new creative director?
The challenge is [to create] styles that are not clichéd or too evident. [I envision] a style to be cool yet sophisticated and elegant. I think what’s been really interesting for me is to actually come visit China, [going] to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. I’m very inspired by just seeing what people wear to work and go out at night.
How do you translate Chinese elements into the new Shanghai Tang look?
Every season I pick two or three elements from Chinese culture – be it a village, a town or ceramics. What I do with the team is that we eliminate the basic things, the first impression of those elements and think about how we can elevate that. We want to extract the essence and evolve it into something that could even surprise Chinese people who are familiar with those cultural elements. The idea is to create a wardrobe of clothes and respect for the new trends but at the same time [create] some statement pieces you can keep for many years because you know they are the new classics. [They’re] something you can use every time.
Your predecessors all spent time extensively in Asia compared to you, does it give you a different perspective?
[Being somewhat new] to Asia, I feel that I’m really absorbing the culture in a different way. Now we are still at the beginning of the process for me to really take in all the information and digest it and, of course, look through all this from a European perspective. I feel the combination of it is something interesting and strong.
What do you think sets Shanghai Tang apart from other competitors?
It’s so difficult to be different today yet Shanghai Tang has managed to remain a unique brand. For me, Shanghai Tang’s ‘qipao’ is like the Alaia dress silhouette. Everybody knows what an Alaia silhouette is, as much as the ‘qipao’ dress, but how you transform that in a more rock ’n’ roll way and modern way, that’s the big question.
Can you tell us your approach to modernise the ‘qipao’ silhouette?
I work with amazing ‘sifus’ in our atelier. They’ve been producing traditional ‘qipao’ for so many years. When I came to them with the design of our leather ‘qipao’, they looked at me as if I were crazy. At the beginning, they were telling me this dress wouldn’t do well because here people want the traditional dress. But that’s not something that I want. So we collaborated on the leather ‘qipao’ and there’s been great synergy. They completely changed their mind at the end. Also, with their amazing craftsmanship, I am able to test and experiment on a lot of new things.
How did you get into fashion?
My mother is a really elegant woman, and she loves fashion. My father used to be a politician. They had a lot of social events. When I was very young, my mother [took me along] to shop for gowns and fabrics with her. I don’t know why but she expected my opinion even when I was only four years old. Some of my earliest memories were about fashion. But my father was really strict and told me to study law. I did law for two years in university and at the same time, taking classes at the fashion academy. I finally confronted my dad and told him that I would never be a lawyer. Today, he’s very happy about me becoming a fashion designer. I got my first job in Paris. I didn’t know anybody, so I was literally knocking on the doors of every single fashion house and finally I got an offer at Balmain.
Do you have any tips for aspiring designers?
I think it's important to be extremely passionate and patient because it's a long process. I had the chance to work with incredible designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Tom Ford and Sonia Rykiel and I learned a lot.
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