Fashion Salutes Art at The Woolff Gallery is a brand new exhibition hosted by Favotell – an organisation committed to providing a platform for international creative talent. Introducing eight fashion brands in collaboration with artist, Guang-Yu Zhang, the designers each had to create pieces inspired by themes found within his artwork.
All the designers showcased are international talents coming from all over the world, including China, Poland, Italy, Cyprus and South Korea.
I went along to the press day to interview the founder, artist and designers as they set up the show-space and got ready for the first day of the exhibition.
Note: The exhibition is running until 19th July. To view the full schedule please see the end of this post.
Meet The Founder
Jialin Kong founded the organisation to bring together her passion for art (having studied Fine Art herself) and her business & management course. After studying at Central St Martins in London, Jialin noticed a lack of support for international artists and designers in Western society and decided to do something about it. Now, she manages several international designers, helping them gain exposure in both London and her hometown, Shanghai.
Meet The Artist
Guang-Yu Zhang is an innovative Chinese artist who loves to work with paint as well digital photographs. Taking inspiration from home as well as European culture, he creates stunning artworks with true substance. Several of his art pieces are on display at the exhibition and almost all are interactive.
Viewers can scan QR codes to watch the artwork go from still life to a moving image. Or you can set your phone to “inverted colours” to see the digital images revert back to their original colours.
What’s the concept behind your collection?
I wanted to build a fictional Chinese world from my imagination inspired by traditional Chinese painting and contemporary aesthetics.
Why bring the worlds of fashion and art together?
Because the two industries are quite different. So when you blend them together you’re bound to get something interesting.
What type of artwork do you create?
Oil painting, photography and installation. I also like augmented reality technology. The paintings have a code to scan and you can view them in 3D. And some of them have their real colours inverted. I used old English illustrations and Photoshopped an Oriental style into them. As well as the artwork though, we’ve invented stories to go alongside the fairytale images.
Who are some of your favourite artists?
Many many favourites… Modern contemporary painters like Lucien Freud and David Hockney. Japanese artists like Takashi Murakami and British Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
My tutor at university told me to free my mind. I’m from China and when I was at university I was a very traditional painter so my tutor told me, “Hey, you’re a contemporary artist now so you need to think differently, be creative.” Once I started thinking like that it was a big change for me.
Meet The Designers
What was the concept behind your designs at Fashion Salutes Art?
Oriental heritage and futurism. The brand is based on the idea of ECO-Luxury, different from ECO-Fashion. It still considers the environment but also with luxury in mind.
What fabrics do you like to use?
For this silver skirt, I’ve used aluminium foil and developed it as a textile. I use fabrics that big companies throw away and rework them for my brand. I’ve also used Chinese materials traditionally used for interiors such as mother of pearl for the jacket buttons.
Do you design any clothing for yourself?
I only wear one thing! (At this point he gestures to his outfit made up of a black blazer, no shirt, and black trousers).
How would you describe your brand’s aesthetic?
Futurism mixed with heritage. And mixing artistic silhouettes like those seen at Comme De Garcçon with lingerie elements like those at Thierry Mugler. A lot of the designs incorporate underwear as outerwear.
If you could travel anywhere right now where would you go?
Egypt. I want to see the pyramids and sphinx – and I want to ride a camel! And even though they say it doesn’t exist, I want to see an oasis.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t listen to anybody!
What attracted you to the fashion industry?
It’s a bit of a story. I lived with my granny as my parents were abroad and they felt very guilty about this so they bought me a lot of Barbies. One day I asked my granny to buy some garments for my Barbie and she refused. So I decided to make the clothes by myself. My grandma had a lot of fabric and I asked her for it but she refused that as well – so I cut my pyjamas! And I made an evening gown from it.
I drew around my Barbie and cut the shapes out from that. Ten years later when I was at fashion school, they taught us how to drape and I realised at that time that I’ve already learnt how to do that when I was eight years old!
What was the concept behind this collection?
I decided to look at the fortune cookie – an American-Chinese invention. The shape of the fortune cookie is very Chinese but the message inside is very Western because it’s always good prophecies. However, in China we have positive, negative and neutral prophecies.
I took the idea of hidden prophecies inside the cookie and decided to invert it. I took Western shapes and fabrics but I included Chinese prophecies in the back of my shirt. You can pull them out of the garment to read and find out whether they’re positive or negative.
Do you have a favourite prophecy?
When I was in London doing my final project I was very depressed as I had a lot of things going on at that time. Then on my birthday my friend asked me to go for dinner in China Town where I was given a fortune cookie. I’ve seen a lot of them before but I never remember what they say but at that time I remember the sentence said, “All your hard work will soon pay off.” And it was totally suited to me at that time so I cannot forget that sentence. Every time I want to give up, that sentence reminds me I should keep going.
What are your favourite fabrics to work with?
My whole collection is quite mannish. I like to mix hard fabrics like wool with softer fabrics.
Which designers do you admire?
I worked with Louise Gray and Alexander McQueen but I wouldn’t say I have one specific style I like. All of my collections are a different style. When I was studying at London College of Fashion, every semester I was doing totally different things. I think the things that we do are connected with our own lives and moods at that time.
Where do you like to draw inspiration from?
Both from nature and cultures around the world. For example my Spring Summer collection was the result of researching the history of fashion like in ancient Rome, which is where my harness idea came from. But inspiration can come from anywhere for me: music, travel, art…
Where do you source fabrics from?
First of all everything is created in Poland as it is important to me that I know who made my clothes and it is also an opportunity to support local fashion. However, I sometimes also use Italian fabrics as I think they’re great for quality.
How would you describe your brand’s style?
My designs are characterised by simplicity however I think that in every piece of my collection there is something distinctive. Whether that’s in the details or prints.
What about your personal style?
Well right now I’m wearing a jumpsuit from my Spring Summer collection. When I’m drawing I always think about what I’d like to wear so my style is essentially my brand’s style.
What was the concept behind your showpiece for this exhibition?
I was influenced by two things. First of all, of course, I wanted to show my aesthetic as a designer but also to include some of Guang’s art. I think his paintings are amazing. In particular, I was interested in the little orange fish that you can find in some of his paintings so I decided to include those elements in my outfit. I also made the dress out of silver fabric that reminds me of chainmail which references the mystical side to his art.
What are some of your other passions apart from fashion?
I love art, painting and photography. But I don’t have much time for it, running my own brand!
How do you keep yourself motivated?
Well, I cry so much and then after that I call my dad! He reminds me that everything is going to be alright. Sometimes everything goes wrong one week or one month, and in another one someone calls you from London and says they love your work and they want you to come here and show it.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Never give up.
Location: Woolff Gallery, Charlotte Street
13th July: Press Day & Launch Party, 11am-10pm
14th July: Friends & Family Affairs, 11am-2pm
15th July: Artbeat, 7pm-10pm. DJ Night with Nikki Beatnik. Free music and refreshments served throughout the evening
16th July: Discover: Behind The Engine, 1pm-4pm. Exclusive afternoon tea party to foster conversation between our fashion designers and guests.
17th July: Make Up Your Day, 1pm-5pm. Makeup artist will be creating different looks inspired by our artist, Guang-Yu Zhang
18th July: For Future Designers & Artists, 11am-4pm. Welcoming students to meet with our designers and artist closely.
19th July: Open Day, 11am-8pm
If you liked this post, check out: How Do Your Shoes Make You Feel?
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