Fashion is a dynamic art form, one based on the body and its interaction with the garments, but there are not many who go beyond the structured norms and dares to challenge the current imposed trends. New York-based Chinese designer Rui Zhou explores these body-garment interactions beyond the typical silhouettes, redefining the idea of everyday garments, such as the bodysuit, the tank top or the stocking. By founding her own brand in 2019, Rui, the creative produces soft and form-fitting designs that have drawn the attention of big names in the industry, getting to dress celebrities and singers of the likes of Dua Lipa or Solange.
Her ready-to-wear label for men and women both amplifies and reveals the body, confidently pointing to the poetic elegance between the skin and the garment. Zhou specialises in fabric manipulation, as seen on her circular and oval cut-outs that explore the space between the skin and the clothing; she has likewise managed to strip away gender connotations through her brand, by using the body shape as a frame. A fascinating designer with a unique creative output, that has led her to become of the nine finalists for the LVMH Prize.
Rui Zhou Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Your namesake brand is deservedly well-known in the fashion world and your work has travelled around the globe; however, we would like to know as much about the Rui Zhou behind the designs. So, let’s talk about you, who is Rui Zhou? And how would you describe your work and passion for fashion design?
I am a fashion designer from Hunan (China). I have been very fond of painting since I was a child. And as for me, fashion is something that I will keep moving on to it and there’s never an end.
It’s been 3 years since your graduation from Parsons but longer since you started working in the fashion industry, it must have been a fascinating journey. What's your earliest memory or contact with fashion? And what has changed since your beginnings as a designer?
I don't remember what was the earliest moment when I came into contact with fashion, but my mother and my sister are both very dress-conscious individuals. This environment made me feel that people should pay attention to their clothing every day. After I became a designer, I thought more deeply about the practicality and creativity of fashion.
I’ve heard that you hardly sketch your designs to not limit your creativity. In that case, how does your creative process work? What does it take for a concept or idea to become the final garment we see on the runway?
I am personally more likely to find creativity in mannequins, as in this process, new ideas and silhouettes will come out naturally. Then it’s easier to communicate with the pattern makers and dressmakers how to achieve them.
Rui Zhou Metalmagazine 1.jpg
As a Chinese designer based in New York, and who embraces non-binary identities through your gender-fluid collections, would you say the public is ready for brands like yours? How has your brand been received in China and internationally?
Yes, I think the public has accepted my brand. Not only my brand but also others similar to mine are now making unisex fashion without emphasising gender. I think I am very lucky to be accepted in China and internationally, and purchased by customers.
It must be thrilling to have celebrities of the likes of Dua Lipa or Solange wearing your designs. Did you ever expect to reach this level of exposure with your brand? What would you tell the Rui Zhou from 5 years ago?
I didn’t expect today's results, I am very happy. I would say to myself from 5 years ago to keep moving on, and never regret it.
Your garments honour all shapes and sizes while normalising body diversity, something that many brands in the industry still need to learn. What would you say is the secret when it concerns celebrating the body through fashion design?
Since I am based on the body itself, starting from the different body types, I pay more attention to the diversity of individuals.
Rui Zhou Metalmagazine 10.jpg
You have experimented with the knitwear form on your bodysuits and managed to create a special interaction between the body and the garment. Moreover, you explore the spaces between skin and fabric... Your original designs never stop to amaze and have become recognisable attributes from the brand. How were these characteristic shapes and ideas born?
This can be traced back to when I was doing my thesis project at Parsons, I found that the elasticity of knitting was quite suitable to express my concept at that time. Knits are very gentle, delicate but show strong power and tension on the skin.
What do you think would be the perfect occasion to wear one of your brand's pieces?
Whenever you're ready.
Looking into the future, are there any plans or projects you can tell us about? What are you currently working on?
I am now working on the Rui Spring/Summer 2022 collection, and I also want to explore potential collaborations in the future.
Rui Zhou Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Rui Zhou Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Rui Zhou Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Rui Zhou Metalmagazine 7.jpg
Rui Zhou Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Rui Zhou Metalmagazine 8.jpg