Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Jarel Zhang: Reboot and Rebirth in the Digital World

Jarel Zhang's SS20 urban uniform for surviving the busy streets of a metropolitan city with zippered pockets big enough to carry a hard drive. Main picture and cover for DAM by Yvonne Aeberhard Stutz/funkyforty.com
One of the highlights of Paris Fashion Week was the futuristic streetwear designed for a post-apocalyptic world by Jarel Zhang for Spring/Summer 2020. The collection was inspired by the notion of rebooting your life, like restarting a computer in the digital universe. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photographs for DAM by Yvonne Aeberhard Stutz

Although filmy and sheer, Jarel Zhang
 still manages to create a sense
of urban streetwear. Photo:
Yvonne Aeberhard Stutz/
UNDER a long swathe of lights hung like an aeroplane runway, Jarel Zhang presented his new collection in the atmospheric tunnel at the Faust nightclub, on the Rive Gauche Pont Alexander III, between the Grand Palais and Invalides in Paris.

This season, the designer's futuristic urban streetwear was inspired by a computer aesthetic, even the invitations were designed like a printout and the collection was called [CTRL_ALT_HOME]. Random computer-speak phrases were included like: "ignore non-existent files, never_prompt" or "rectify issue immediately to prevent data loss."

Zhang says the Spring/Summer 2020 collection began with the simple idea that rebooting a computer could symbolise a new start in life. When all else fails dealing with a piece of electronic equipment, he thought of the ubiquitous response: "have you tried turning it off and on again?"

The designer decided to take this "restarting" idea as his main theme, a metaphor for how human beings can reboot their lives from scratch after suffering pain and failure, and find a way to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems. "Could it be possible to 'restart' life without any memory to hold us back?" he asked. He saw the collection as a series of stages through digital life such as 'starting', 'functioning', 'virus attack' and finally 'programming' and 'restarting'.

"Using the digital world as a background we're going to contemplate the extreme actions human beings are capable of and attempt to convey the message that people can put an end to the suffering that destroys them and yearn for a new a life," the designer said. "Through this collection we want them to know that they can dare to click the reboot button and start all over again.''

Jarel Zhang says the SS2020 collection began with the idea that rebooting a computer could symbolise a new start in life

Pastel pink and asymmetric camouflage
to survive metropolitan madness.
Photo: Yvonne Aeberhard Stutz/
How does all of this translate to the clothes? Well the unisex designs looked created to do battle in the urban jungle with voluminous jackets and coats, designed with pockets for digital paraphernalia, aerodynamic sneakers and slick, geometric sunglasses. Comfortable yet protective streetwear that would see you through a demanding day in the digital metropolis.

All of Zhang's collections have a sporty look with designs that allow the wearer to move easily and quickly through an urban environment, shedding layers as the weather or air conditioning dictates.

Materials were lighter in texture and colour this season compared to the autumn collection, with a palette of pastels mixed with dashes of bright yellow and blue. The only pattern in the collection was a camouflage design. There were a wide range of billowing, roomy silhouettes with interesting structural details and tailoring techniques.

Jackets and tops were given a futuristic look with asymmetrical panels and combination of lacing, buttoning and zips with oversized pockets as built-in handbags. There were matching trousers and shirts (see image above) in pale pink with drawstring waists and contrasting panels in the camouflage design in light and dark blues, khaki and white.

The designs have a sporty ethos that allow easy movement through a teeming metropolis, shedding layers as the weather or air conditioning dictates

Shirt as jacket with a modern satchel
 for digital accoutrements. Photo:
Yvonne Aeberhard Stutz/
The long, loose shirt (see at left) in electric blue is worn like a jacket with a big collar, fitted around the neck, and long, almost batwing sleeves. Two, small bags are slung over the shoulder and worn like a contemporary satchel in Cerulean blue and black.

Long, black shorts are made of neoprene and have a big pocket at the front, that looks the right size to carry a hard drive. Zhang mixes generous proportions with contrasting accessories that add an edgy urbanism.

The designer originally founded his label in 2015 after completing his fashion studies in the United Kingdom. First he graduated with a degree from Northumbria University before going on to complete a post-graduate Masters degree in textile design at the Chelsea College of Art and Design.

Zhang showed his work during London Fashion Week and was later invited to show at New York Fashion Week before doing a presentation in Paris. Today, his collection is shown on the last day of fashion week, between Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Born near Shanghai, in China's Zhejiang province, his studio is still based there and his collections are produced in the same region.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Christian Siriano: An American Designer in Paris

Coco Rocha strikes a pose at the Christian Siriano SS20 show in Paris, as Alicia Silverstone, Shannon Purser, Karlie Kloss, Larsen Thompson and Leigh Lezark look on. Cover picture and photographs all by Elli Ioannou for DAM

American designer Christian Siriano brought his Spring/Summer 2020 collection to Paris for the first time. Inspired by Pop Art, the show was a vivid contrast to the pastel salons of the Hotel d'Evreux in the Place Vendôme and had a stellar frow including Shannon Purser, Alicia Silverstone and Karlie Kloss. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Elli Ioannou
 Cindy Bruna wears a frothy, tulle gown
at the Hotel dEvreux in Paris
AMID the pale green and gold salons of the Hotel d'Evreux, an 18th-century mansion in the Place
Vendôme, Christiano Siriano presented his new collection for the first time in Paris.

The designer brought American razzmatazz with him as models Coco Rocha and Candy Bruna wore his exuberant evening gowns, striking poses that brought them to life on the runway, with whoops from the star-studded front row.

One of the standout winners of the Project Runway television series in 2008, Siriano is now a mentor on the show's new 17th season after its return to the Bravo network. The host of the show, model Karlie Kloss, was in the front row joined by Alicia Silverstone (who captured the Nineties fashion zeitgeist in the film Clueless) along with actors Shannon Purser, Larsen Thompson and Leigh Lezark.

Christian Siriano has worked hard to be taken seriously and has shown his collections at New York Fashion Week for more than a decade. He has dressed some of the United States most high profile women from Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey to Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Victoria Beckham and Angelina Jolie. But despite the celebrity, the designer has always been keen to cast a diverse range of models for his fashion shows.

"The collection was inspired by modern pop artists like Ashley Longshore and her whimsical and playful use of colour and texture"

A voluminous gown worn by Maria Borges
was one of the highlights
of Siriano's show
This season, the designer's Spring 2020 collection was inspired by New Orleans painter Ashley Longshore. At the New York show, there were enormous pastel and neon canvas portraits of Frida Kahlo and Lady Gaga on the runway at Manhattan's Gotham Hall, while the artist herself worked on the paintings.

Longshore's recreation of the pop culture portrait has made her well-known in the art world. Siriano sees her as a "modern day Warhol" and believes there is mutual inspiration between painters and designers.

In Paris, Christian Siriano brought a Pop Art sensibility to the collection, without the actual paintings, artist and artwork of New York. Instead, he let the buoyant clothes speak for themselves with their brilliant colour palette, including buttercup yellow tops and pants, shimmering long coats in silver, hot pink minidresses, layered tulle skirts and body hugging creations made of red, lip-shaped lace.

A gown with voluminous sleeves on model Maria Borges (see above) had a luminous colour combination of gold, aqua, azure and magenta. Mixed with the lavish designs were more reserved outfits such as gabardine, sea-Green jackets and shorts, black eveningwear jumpsuits, and dresses with one shoulder finished with long, glimmering fringes.

Siriano's brilliant colour palette included buttercup yellow, shimmering silver, hot pink and burgundy lace.

Lip-shaped lace were inspired by Pop Art
and Surrealism
"This season the collection was inspired by modern pop artists of today," said Christian Siriano. "Artist Ashley Longshore's whimsical and playful use of colour and texture help inspire the fabrication this season. Her women empowerment statements also inspire the silhouettes in the collection to celebrate the body and the women wearing them.

"Almost a hint of surrealism influenced by Jeff Koons series of work, Easyfun-Ethereal, moves throughout the collection with dramatic eye and lip print textiles used in unexpected ways. There is a focus on event dressing and eveningwear that is modern. I wanted the collection to feel playful, colorful, bright and romantic, but still powerful and exciting.”

The lip design was used for not only textured lace but both prints and asymmetrical dresses and tops and added to the extroverted part of the collection with its lamé greens, golds, pinks and rainbow stripes.

The collection included some menswear like Siriano's  strapless bustier, transparent blouses and metallaic green jackets worn with Bermuda shorts. While a neutral eye design print was on several pieces, most of the collection was in limpidly iridescent hues, especially the fuchsia minidresses.

"I wanted the collection to feel playful, colorful, bright and romantic, but still powerful and exciting.”

Sheer gowns in black seem
made for the red carpet
Christian Siriano started out a long way from the fashion world in New York. He grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, where he studied at Broadneck Senior High School before transferring to the Baltimore School for the Arts. The school allowed Siriano to choose fashion as his main subject and as he also studied ballet, this added to his interest in design. He began making clothes when he was thirteen, while working at a hair salon, and then designed the clothes for their annual exhibitions.

Siriano went on to study at the American InterContinental University in London and then interned at Vivienne Westwood, and later at Alexander McQueen. He returned to the US to live in New York City after graduating. Here he started working as a freelance make-up artist, making wedding gowns for private clients and as an intern for a short time at Marc Jacobs.

The designer was the youngest winner of Project Runway in 2008, which launched his career, and as part of the prize he was able to show a twelve-piece final collection at New York Fashion Week. When Siriano won the show's fourth season, it included a fashion spread in Elle magazine, a car and US$100,000 to start his own label.

Four years later, the first Christian Siriano flagship store opened in Manhattan's Nolita neighbourhood. His business continued to expand with his own fragrance, Silhouette, in 2014, and his work at Disney creating the costumes for the fairies, especially Zarina, in the animated film The Pirate Fairy. Siriano was also given the fashion world's stamp of approval when he was admitted to the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).

Siriano studied at the American InterContinental University in London and interned at Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen

Christian Siriano celebrates after his first
Paris show with his models.
Photo: Kevin Tachman
Siriano has since become known for his extravagant ball gowns worn on the red carpet, his tailored sportswear and line of shoes and accessories.

Eyewear, home and beauty collections were all launched three years ago. A photographic retrospective of his work was published by Rizzoli Books in 2017, called Dresses to Dream About.

He was named “Designer of the Year” at the 2016 AAFA American Image Awards and won the Couture For A Cause “Designer of the Decade” award that same year. Siriano also collaborates on collections for a wide range of brands for both clothing and accessories. But the effervescent creations for his own label, like those in Paris, are at the heart of his work.

Tap photographs to see a full-screen slideshow of highlights from Christian Siriano's Paris show