Jiaru Zhang the Sheffield Hallam University alumna encourages younger generations not to deny yourself because of others changes or attitudes through her designs. In light of her most recent feature as part of our Global Young Talent in the November issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK, we had the pleasure of speaking to the outstanding womenswear designer, Jiaru Zhang about her journey from learning painting at home to becoming a fashion designer.
1. You’re originally from China, and moved to Sheffield to pursue a degree in fashion design, where does your interest in fashion stem from and why did you decide to move to Europe for your studies?
When growing up, my parents always respected my interests, which gave me a lot of room to develop in painting. To improve my painting skills, they found a teacher for me who happened to be fashion designer. In the process of learning, she made me realize that clothes can not only meet people's most basic needs but also play a role in dressing. Design is more like a process of self-expression. Through design, you can perfectly present the content you want to express with structure, fabric, patchwork and different colour elements in your collection, which gives me more space for exploration. I'm interested in the cultures of European countries but in the era of high-speed Internet information development. I prefer to have a personal experience of European culture, history and people's way of life rather than understand it through writing or documentary.
"I got inspired from a trip to Rome. It was my first time in Rome, and I was both absolutely captivated and fascinated by the history, the buildings and the people."
2. Your graduate collection is inspired by the different cultures you can find in an age gap, focusing in particular on the Chinese age generations, how does this come to life in your collection and what did you opt for this topic as a source of inspiration?
In the past, people in China wore vests when it got cold. So, my grandmother always reminds me to wear a vest. But a vest with no design makes me reluctant to wear it. In my collection I designed different vests more suitable for young people. Layout design is intended to convey the young person's organization in doing and thinking. Until now, my grandmother and I don't agree with each other's fashion sense and every time my grandmother saw me wearing torn pants, she would try to sew them on for me. One of my inspirations came from an argument caused by my grandmother's disapproval of what I wore on a daily basis.
3. What stands out about your work is the printed-details, what was the inspiration behind your bold colour palette and 2D-accessories?
Younger generations tend not to wear clothes with bold colours easily as it might make them look and feel different from most people in society. Compared with ordinary necklaces, using laser cutting technology to make 2D accessories can better highlight the individuality and innovation of young people. I hope to find the most suitable collocation through constant adjustment and turn an ordinary or even boring design into an interesting one. This is what I wish to achieve.
"I hope to find the most suitable collocation through constant adjustment and turn an ordinary or even boring design into an interesting one."
4. Your collection was shortlisted for one of the best collections during the GFW19 and you have had your work seen in the ‘Dream Big’ fashion film how was this experience from you and what opportunities did this lead to?
Through these experiences, I met many excellent designers with their own unique ideas. We shared our inspirations, the techniques we used and discussed what we wanted to do next. This did not only open my eyes but also helped me to improve my design level while reviewing my work repeatedly. I saw the infinite possibilities of costume design.
5. What have you learnt during your time at university and what tips do you have for future fashion students?
No matter how exaggerated the idea may be, you should first learn to explore and experiment with your ideas boldly. When looking for your own design style, try to appreciate designers' works and study the methods worth learning. Don't imitate or copy, but also don't be confined to your own thinking.
"No matter how exaggerated the idea may be, you should first learn to explore and experiment with your ideas boldly."
Discover Jiaru Zhang's full collection
Words by Reka Dala