As one of Northumbria’s twenty most innovative fashion students, Wen Yue Zhang’s debut collection was showcased at London Graduate Fashion Week 2016. Having just graduated from the university’s fashion program a few weeks prior, her collection has been met with rave reviews.
Wen Yue Zhang’s graduate collection drew inspiration from the cult favourite Chinese movie Farewell My Concubine (1993), which upon its release had a lasting impact on young people of Wen Yue’s generation. The film is a harrowing narrative on history, politics, romance and drama that center around two boys who grew up as apprentices to an opera school set in the mid-1920s. It follows them on their journey of rigorous training to master the art form of the Peking Opera.
In the film, the line “yet I am by nature a boy, not a girl”, is recited over and over again which points to the age old tradition of men performing female roles on stage, namely one that is a ‘female of the coquettish type’. Sparking Wen Yue’s interest, this particular aspect of traditional Peking opera expanded into what became her motif.
Paying particular attention to the features of the actors as well as the garments itself, Wen Yue notes that actors who are capable of performing female roles often have neutral features. Thus, neutral overtures became the framework to her collection. Applied on top of this foundation are traditional Chinese elements such as the use of traditional brocade fabric, cloaking styles, headdress details and pattern specifications to be inlaid with modern techniques and modern fabrics.
THIS COLLECTION’S SILHOUETTE’S INSPIRATION IS FROM THE CHINESE OPERA COSTUME COMBINED WITH SPORTSWEAR. ACCORDING TO THE A&M 2016’S FASHION TREND, I CHOSE THE BOMBER JACKET, HOODIE AND SOME BASIC SPORTSWEAR SILHOUETTES. COMBINING TRADITIONAL SPORTSWEAR AND CHINESE OPERA COSTUMES, I HAVE BEEN PURSUING THE CREATION OF A UNIQUE STYLE, MORE BOLD IN THE CHOICE OF COLOUR USING A MASS OF PINK BECAUSE IT IS THE COLOUR OF LESLE’S FAVOURITE FLOWER. THE WHOLE COLLECTION’S SILHOUETTE IS OVERSIZED. THE FIRST REASON IS THE CHINESE OPERA COSTUME IS LONG AND VERY BIG, THE SECOND ONE IS LESLIE’S WISH TO BE LIKE IN PARADISE.
LIKE MANY DESIGNERS OF HER ILK, WEN YUE IS AN AVID BELIEVER IN SLOW FASHION, A WELCOME CHANGE TO THE INDUSTRY AND A TELLTALE SIGN OF LUXURY. PRODUCING HER PIECES BY HAND, EVEN SPENDING SOME 240 HOURS PRODUCING HER GARMENTS, WEN YUE LEAVES NO DETAIL UNATTENDED.
HUNDREDS OF HAND STITCHED BEADS ARE WOVEN INTO HALF OF HER COLLECTION WITH THE EMBELLISHED HOODIE TAKING UP TO 25 DAYS TO COMPLETE, A CLOSE SECOND TO HER PEKING OPERA INSPIRED DRESS, A TOTAL OF 30 DAYS.