A muted down version of Hamley’s with less theatrics yet more theatrically centered, Pollock’s Toy Museum houses an eccentric mix of quirky and eccentric playthings. It is in this jam-packed corner store in London’s West End where Xiao Zhu Chen met a similar fate, albeit much less fatal, to that of Andy Barclay in Chucky Child’s Play. In a showroom where hundreds of dolls sat wide-eyed and waiting, each one seemed to plead with Xiao Zhu, “I need you, please bring me home”.
Overcome with terror, she left. Despite her initial fear, the toy museum brought back a flood of childhood nostalgia for her unanimated best friends and upon realizing that the relationship with her toys in her childhood life and adult life differed drastically, Xiao Zhu began to question whether she had forgotten how to be, think and love like a child. Wanting to revive that childlike purity, she took her childhood memories as the model behind her collection.
Dubbed “Little Prince” (after the famed fable of childhood innocence suitable for all ages with its underlying philosophical treatise) there is no better name for Xiao Zhu’s first collection, which probes into the fragile friction between adulthood and childhood perception.
Through the view of both lenses, her designs take inspiration from kid’s drawings and childhood toys reinvented for adult appropriate dress. Bright, vivid colours were selected as backdrops to playful prints, building block inspired shapes and childlike scribbles. LEGO pieces were used to create whimsical accessories such as sunglasses, handbags and hats whilst some pieces were simultaneously applied as embellishments. These larger than life details were added to emulate that of a child playing amongst a scattering of toys on a living room floor.
Print is a running motif in Xiao Zhu’s collection. From the golden balloon dog print to chalk to felt drawn triangles, each pattern was specially designed to simulate child’s play. Fabric transformation also had a large role in this collection to create rich textures and add dynamism to the pieces.
Draping and flat cutting techniques were utilised to create a uniquely tailored fit for each garment. Through trial and error, specialised sewing skills were implemented upon uniquely designed pieces such as the jumpsuit. Versatility was also a key feature on some of Xiao Zhu’s pieces as seen in the blazer of the yellow polka dotted suit further reinforcing the playful nature of childhood heydays.