Xander Zhou has been developing his signature on London catwalks for years now. Exploring classical tailoring with unexpected twists, the first Chinese designer to be part of London Fashion Week puts it clear: “I do not create art pieces that reduce the wearer to a walking pedestal.” Having studied across continents in China and the Netherlands, his menswear design for Fall 2017 introduces edgy but classy silhouettes, crowned with an avant-garde attitude.
He was discovered thanks to his rainbow pant, but last month in London, Xander headlined Men's Fashion Week Fall 2017. His collection, called I’m Carrying a Secret Weapon, introduces silhouettes that flirt with an imposing body fluidity, composed of course for men. For next season indeed, the designer aims to give space to a man in love with city explorations – a white-collar evolving off the beaten tracks, at least at the end of the day. He infuses a progressive and experimental style into traditional suits, incisive cuts into surprising fabrics. And this is what he prefers to call a “don’t give a fuck-tailoring“. This sounded like a statement of a clear and innovative tailoring, so we wanted to dig in a little deeper.
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine .jpg
Who is Xander Zhou's character – is it a boy or a man?
Are you asking about the designer, or about the people wearing Xander Zhou? Actually, both could be best described as boyish men. Boyish, because they have not lost their curiosity, their ability to have fun, and because they are simply young at heart. Men, because they are definitely grown-up in a sense that they are clear about who they are and what they want, and are confident enough to live the life they want. Of course these qualifications also apply to women who choose to wear Xander Zhou.
You often say that your design is an exploration of form and function. Can you expand a little more? How do you understand menswear design?
What I mean is that I find it important to strike a right balance between innovative designs, non-conformist aesthetics and wearability. I want to design clothes that can be worn – not pieces that only look nice in a museum. They should also not confine the person who is wearing them, but rather make them more confident to do whatever they want.
More globally, what do you design for? Is there anything you’ll dream to bring out thanks to fashion?
It is tempting to say that I want to achieve world peace, but honestly I just design because I like it, and other people seem to like it too. I think visually, so putting my ideas into form is a way for me to communicate with the outside world. Not because I think the world couldn’t do without it, but because I would feel very miserable if I could not express myself.
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 16.jpg
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 17.jpg
Your exploration of textile is fascinating – how did you end up traveling through fabrics? Is there anything or anyone, designers or artists, that inspired you to do so?
No, it is not a path that I have chosen deliberately. It is just that, among other things such as traveling and youth culture, different fabrics inspire me to design. That is why working on a new collection often starts with visits to fabric markets to see and feel materials. I will start buying fabrics before I even put any design on paper. I will have a certain mood or direction in mind, and I will intuitively choose the fabrics that will enable me to give form to my ideas.
So fabric is your starting point?
Fabric is definitely one of the catalysts, but not the only one. There is also the visual inspiration by things and people I have encountered in period between collections. How exactly that works, nobody knows – not even me. Sometimes seeing something triggers me to do the opposite. Once a collection starts to shape up, a certain internal logic emerges that will then become the driving force of any further designs.
What kind of fabric do you use? What would you dream about when it comes to use of new textile?
Anything that can yield wearable clothes. New materials definitely interest me. I do have high standards when it comes to quality though, so probably not materials that only look good when worn the first time. While maintaining that quality, I will also experiment with some completely new fabrics in each collection. I like to ‘destroy’ what is perfect. The result is often more exciting.
On the catwalk of AW 2018, from your collection presented during London Fashion Week, the characters seem to be white collar workers on their way to a techno party. Am I right? What inspired you this time to compose those characters?
Indeed the looks on the catwalk represented different characters, guys with a mission – perhaps even a secret mission. They might be working in a lab in some futuristic place. Or they might be just off from work and on their way to a techno party, as you say. You know, things in Asia are very hectic, hurried and flurried. When white collars come from work, they just want to go get a drink or go to a party right away, without even going home to get changed. Have you ever been to Japan? Then you probably know what I mean.
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 18.jpg
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 19.jpg
Regarding your previous collections, you appear to be fascinated by subcultures. What is it that intrigues you in such tribes?
I had a period in which I liked to use visual elements from subcultures. But now I am a bit fed up with the concept of ‘subcultures’. I think the concept has devaluated since it has been overused by the fashion industry. I am always very into parties and other gatherings of young people. I have partied with three generations of young people. When I am new to a country or a city, I will start to explore it by going to parties – and not by looking at its ancient history. What I like about young people is that they don’t have so many rules. ‘Don’t give a fuck’ might not be a very mature way of looking at things, but it does help to keep looking at things in a fresh and unburdened way.
Some journalists have been defining your work as ‘progressive tailoring’ – do you agree with that terminology?
I take that as a compliment. Tailoring is indeed something that defines my work. I don’t make streetwear. But I tailor for those people who would also wear streetwear. You could call it ‘don’t-give-a-fuck-tailoring’.
On the labels of your clothing, one can read ‘Made on Another Planet’ – I like how you relativise the importance of country of provenance. Could you maybe share with us how does it come to your mind?
It is not a secret that I am based in Beijing and that my clothes are made in China. However, most people have a stereotype idea of things that are ‘Made in China’ that may result from a lack of understanding of China in all its diversity. Even within China, or within Beijing, there are people that seem to be living in completely different worlds, or in parallel universes if you want. Since it might therefore be hard to picture anything based on the information that my clothes are ‘Made in China’, they might as well be made on another planet. For many non-Chinese people, China is almost like another planet. Saying that my clothes are made on another planet is also a way of making fun of myself – and of you. If it triggers your interest, you should come have a look at this other planet.
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 4.jpg
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 10.jpg
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 8.jpg
Xanderzhou Metalmagazine 7.jpg