Its hybrid and technical silhouettes seem to come straight out of an imaginary war programmed from a near future. Shangguan Zhe is the visionary Chinese designer creating a world where post-apocalyptic aesthetics flirt with subcultures and streetwear fashion. If you still don’t know it, you’ll fall in love with Sankuanz, the brand whose latest presentation in Paris was the perfect opportunity to showcase a dystopian vision of fashion.
Is there a special meaning behind your label name, Sankuanz?
Sankuanz is a modification of the pronunciation of my Chinese name, Shangguan Zhe. So Sankuanz is me and not me. It is another individual being extracted from me. Perhaps, like a brother of mine?
Since 2016, you are part of the official calendar Paris Fashion Week, why did you make that choice?
I like Paris.
How would you describe the Chinese fashion scene in this early 2019? Do you see an evolution since you started your label six years ago?
There have been great changes in the fashion industry. It is learning and growing rapidly, creating its own rules and system. With the support of a huge market, all kinds of possibilities and opportunities lie in these changes. It is as much an opportunity as a risk for designers. However, I think there is still a long way for creativity to change the big picture in China.
Who is the Sankuanz girl/boy?
I am preparing the Spring/Summer 2020 collection. As far as I can tell right now, they would be like the protagonists from a movie by the Coen brothers.
We’ll see then… But before, your most recent collection, Fall/Winter 2019, oscillates between dark futuristic tailoring and it mixes metallic finger rings with PVC, leather jackets and military-inspired looks. There was a sort of dystopian atmosphere surrounding the catwalk as well. Can you tell us what was the main statement behind this collection?
The Internet is like an ocean. Some live on the surface, some live at the bottom. With this collection, I want to create a group of people who live at the bottom of this ocean.
Your models are dressed as soldiers going to war. Are you afraid of the end of the world?
I think I would be if it was some sort of disaster. My biggest fear experience so far comes only from a bumping flight, so I have no clear image of a big disaster. But people usually link the end of the world to disasters. Another possibility is that it isn’t brought by disasters but by an update, an entry of a more advanced form of existence. If it was so, that would be rather exciting.
Your designs are symbolically charged, featuring elements encapsulating subcultures and streetwear aesthetics. Where do you see the limit between high fashion and underground culture, if there is one?
Fashion is business in essence. All its rules are based on consumption. As much as I hate to say it, in these rules, people are divided into two categories only: the rich and the poor. Almost all high fashion labels serve the rich. No matter how high fashion deconstructs or appropriates underground culture, the works are not created for this culture. I wouldn't call it a lie; it’s consumption.
You’ve recently dropped a collaboration with Puma on a brand new eye-catching, neon green sneaker. Can you tell me more about it?
The interesting thing about this collaboration is that it makes many consumers of the big market see our brand. All in all, it has been much of a fun experience.
Any other brands or artists you dream of collaborating with?
I have a project that I’ve been wishing to realize for a long time, a collaboration with a lifestyle brand such as Muji.
What does inspire you the most every day?
The next collection.
Any new techniques or materials you would like to experiment with in your upcoming collections?
I am a bit tired to try new materials and techniques. Maybe I will try a simpler method for the new collections. I am not sure though; we’ll see in a while.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
I don’t know how to describe this… I can’t plan too far ahead. The farthest ahead I can think about is six months. Most of the time, I just walk and see. That’s also partly why I’m never good at chess or card games. I believe in destiny as do many Chinese. I believe that a lot of things just happen as they are destined to. So basically, I am just flowing in the river of destiny and see where the waves take me.