Xander Zhou is out of this world. Always an eye-opening venture, Zhou's shows invite us to join his Supernatural Extra-Terrestrial Co and immerse ourselves amongst pregnant men, alien yetis, space station workers or virtual realities. His A/W 20 show was about multiverses and, as if often the case with Zhou's work, there was a lot more to dissect than initially met the eye. An AI-generated press release had already begun to spark ideas of future-realms but it was the anonymous face glitch print, the zig-zag of the zipper and the new fabrications that pushed fashion editor Georgina Evans to probe Zhou on his latest collection. Here, Zhou discusses the collection that traversed the universe.
Georgina Evans: This season felt like more of an exploration in quantum physics than before. Was there anything in particular that instigated your interest?
Xander Zhou: When reading scientific articles about quantum physics as well as science-fiction novels, I will often visualise things in my mind. Both types of reading present theories that help me to understand how seemingly unrelated matters can be strangely related after all, how everything is interconnected. These theories also help me clearly see what type of fashion rules I dislike and make me feel uncomfortable, it also shows me the direction that I want to take my artistic creation.
GE: There is always an element of the traditional amongst your future tech explorations, my favourite this season was the pulsing lines and graphs led by the body’s acupuncture points!
XZ: When imagining the future, I will always draw inspiration from what exists around us in the real world, including traditional elements, and I am particularly interested in finding unexpected connections between tradition and the future. For example, the connection between the meridians of the body in traditional Chinese medicine and the electronic circuits on a microchip. I also try to keep some continuity between my collections. You might remember the looks with the coloured stones on acupuncture points from my previous collection - these looks are connected with those as well. They express the feeling that human beings, both ancient and in the future, are connected with the universe, part of the cosmic energy.
GE: How did you go about exploring the genre of AI this season?
XZ: I always keep a comfortable distance to AI. This time, I used AI to help me create faces of non-existent persons and write a press release based on some keywords. I like the fact that texts generated by AI or translated by Google Translate sometimes are quite poetic by accident.
GE: The splicing of jackets, colour and hairstyle splits, are they showing us our other half in another reality?
XZ: Yes, either other selves that exist in other realities, but also other selves that exist within yourself but are somehow hidden or suppressed, or just not noticed by the people around you because they live in their own universe.
GE: Materials seemed to take a shift, with some brilliant knitted two-pieces and hard-wearing utility nylons, what's new in terms of fabrications?
XZ: I am always very particular about the materials that I use for my designs. As a result, there is a certain evolution in the materials that I use in subsequent collections. Sometimes you can see from collection to collection that certain looks get an 'upgrade' in terms of the materials used. But of course, I will also use brand new materials to create brand new looks. Actually, in this collection, I tried to limit the number of different materials that I used, and rather focus on expressing the essence of each material. As for the knitwear, it is still very much evolving, so keep tuned for my next collection!
GE: What do you hope the wearer gains from your collection?
XZ: I hope they can feel like they are from another planet, but are also successful in integrating into this world. I also believe that whoever chooses to wear looks from my collection is very clear about what he or she wants to gain from it - whatever that may be.
GE: It’s a little while since we saw your show, how do you feel toward the collection now?
XZ: Usually, after showing a collection I get fed up with it pretty quickly. But I haven't reached that point yet with this collection. I genuinely believe there are some novel aspects to the collection that I haven't seen anywhere else, which is why I am not yet tired of it.
GE: You’ve long explored the nuances in the relationship between media, tech and fashion, but is there something that you would love to create/explore but can’t yet?
XZ: I would still like to explore many more possibilities when it comes to our sensory experiences, including virtual reality. I am also very much looking forward to the day that we develop a biological fabric that is like a second skin and can adapt to the conditions that we find ourselves in. I am actually also looking forward to breaking free from the mould of fashion weeks and find a more innovative way of presenting my work to the world. These are just some things that I would really want to explore, but cannot as of yet. If you ever come across any digital artists and other tech creatives, please remember to recommend a collaboration with me! SOS!