A model at an Eachway runway show. File Photos
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OLD things can be made fashionable in the right hands, as Zhao Huizhou proves. Zhao, founder and chief designer of the brand Eachway, has been focusing on incorporating intangible cultural heritage into her fashion masterpieces in recent years.
“Many young people today, eager to embrace globalization and fast fashion, have no knowledge of the rich and amazing intangible cultural heritage our country has in store,” Zhao told the Shenzhen Daily. “I feel like it’s my duty to get the young interested in our traditions.”
The designer was very much impressed by the embroideries and silver accessories of the Miao ethnic minority during a trip to Guizhou Province several years ago, so she introduced the Miao embroideries into her design. For her 2018 spring/summer series, she has also adopted a unique plant-based dyeing technique to process the fabrics.
Thinking of the big picture, Zhao has worked with pottery artist Li Jianshen to stage a joint show and produce designer pottery under her brand. She also opens regular workshops for children to learn embroidery, wax printing and pottery making.
“I plan to do more projects in the future to introduce intangible cultural heritage into our modern lives and spread the message that traditions do not contradict fashion, but can be part of it.”
After graduating from Hubei Institute of Fine Arts (HIFA) with a degree in fashion design in 1996, the Hunan native started her own brand in Shenzhen. She also has an EMBA degree from China Europe International Business (CEIBS) and is currently doing a master’s degree program in fashion management co-administered by Tsinghua University and Milan Polytechnic.
“It’s not difficult to make one perfect garment, but it’s a bigger challenge to build a brand that can speak for itself,” Zhao said.
Her company now has three brands under its wings: Eachway targeting elegant urbanites, the high-end and more classical Hui, as well as Sofa for young girls.
“Your products communicate the image of your brand, and it’s important to find the right orientation and give it a soul,” Zhao explained. “Just like Nike has ‘Just do it,’ I hope people will associate ‘Your elegance has depth’ to my brands.”
Winning numerous honors and awards in fashion design in China during her 21-year career, Zhao debuted her solo runway show at Milan Fashion Week in 2015. The previous year, she helped design the garments for first ladies at the APEC Summit in Beijing.
“The fashion industry primarily targets women. As a woman designer, I have a better understanding of women’s needs, which is a privilege,” she said.
“Men are more logical in their aesthetics, which explains the tendency of showing tension and power in their design.” She gives the example of Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking and Alexander McQueen’s scary heels.
“In comparison, women are more sensitive and like to feel things. Personally I like to combine soft and draping fabrics with simple, neat cuts to bring out the gentle power of women.”
Zhao thinks young designers today are bold in embracing their individuality. “They are lucky to be surrounded by this quickly-exploding information era, only they need to focus on what they’re doing without being distracted as they accumulate experience along the way.”
The veteran of the industry has also shared her insights into the fashion world (next column):
Consumers today pay to get their individual needs satisfied. Those sticking to the basics cannot thrive in the retail industry. Premium consumer experience has become a new standard, and no one will pay for unprofessional service. The fall of “shoe king” Belle is a reminder of the change of tides. Belle runs a dozen brands that overlap in designs and pricing. It fails to locate its core customers and satisfy their precise needs.
Good designs start with good new fabrics. When retro and classical designs take the fashion world by storm, it’s up to your choice in fabrics to differentiate yourself. Innovating fabrics also fuels inspiration, like the Chanel tweed, Versace piercing and Yamamoto pleat.
You can feel the first breezes of a trend at runway shows. The clever use of colors and mixing different materials of Japanese brand Atsushi Nakashima was very impressive at the recently closed Milan Fashion Week. It’s obvious that mixing and matching will be hot next year, either in colors or fabrics. Waist bags, a weird craze started at the beginning of this year, will continue trending and become more functional.