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.

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