There’s more to menswear than suits and ties. Every other Monday, we’re giving the fastest developing facet of fashion the attention it deserves and introducing the designers, buyers, trendsetters and stylists you need to know.
The rest of London might have some foreign competition in Beijing-based menswear designer Xander Zhou. Zhou showed his Spring/Summer 2014 collection earlier this month in London the day after J.W. Anderson showed his, and pulled off several of the same feats that have made British desisgners such a seemingly singular hit—high-concept androgyny, old-school menswear fabrics, and lots of exposed leg.
Zhou mixed the severely masculine (suit coats, pinstripes, loafers) with the severely feminine (bell sleeves, garters, flashes of Pepto-pink leather) for a lineup that wasn’t so much ambiguous in its gender presentation as it was alternatingly extreme. The designer had plenty of other big ideas, such as all-over photo-print overcoats and a series of apron-esque waistbands that gave blazers a brand new length. He’s been demanding more and more attention since his 2007 launch, but he jokes that “one can only be ‘up and coming’ for so long.” We couldn’t agree more: his Spring collection got at so many of menswear’s current preoccupations that it could be something of an undeniable and overdue breakout. We touched base with him while he was still in London to discuss his aversion to industry trend-peddling and his affinity for pajama dressing.
NAME: Xander Zhou
HOMETOWN: Jilin, in the northeast of China. But right now, Beijing is what I call home.
SHOWING IN: London
ORIGIN STORY: Even at a young age, I would use scissors on new clothes if I thought that would make them look better. When I went to university in Beijing I studied industrial design, but deep down I knew that was not what I wanted to do. What really got me started was when I got a second-hand sewing machine from a friend when I was in the Netherlands. I went out to buy some cloth and started to make the things I had in mind.
NO NEW TRENDS: In general, I don’t like trends, because they tend to stifle creativity. If something crazy or outrageous becomes a trend, it gets neutralized. My hope is that crazy things can stay crazy.
TRADEMARKS: I think this is something that changes over time, but perhaps trench coats and pajamas are things that stick when looking back at the past few collections.
FUTURE COLLECTOR’S ITEM: That’s a hard one. Actually I don’t like to single out an individual piece from a collection. A collection has a certain rhythm, an internal logic, and the pieces can be much better understood and appreciated within a collection than outside of it. Context is everything. This is actually a message that I try to convey in my current collection.
FASHION IS…: Constantly trying to catch up with itself, but I hope it never will.
BOYS VS. GIRLS: What has menswear got that womenswear hasn’t? I am afraid the answer is: nothing. Womenswear has pretty much incorporated everything that was originally designed for men. But not the other way around. Must have something to do with gender identity.
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