Feature: Chinese-Australian fashion designer creates bicultural "nostalgia" collection

2023-May-26 11:31 By: Xinhua

SYDNEY, May 24 (Xinhua) -- While big brands often commandeer the spotlight, up-and-coming new faces can also turn heads at a fashion week, as they hold the potential to wow the industry with creativity.

Awarded as one of the four Next Gen designers by Australian Fashion Week, Xizhu Wu finished her debut runway show in a refurbished gallery at the Carriageworks in Sydney, beaming with joy and relief.

"It's my first time having a proper runway show, which I'm very excited about, but I'm feeling a lot more relieved. The show's over. Now I can relax a little, move on and do the next thing," Wu told Xinhua.

For the young Chinese-Australian who founded her own label "Xi Wu Studio," it took about five months to create a brand-new collection from sketch to ready-for-runway pieces, with "nostalgia" as the core concept.

By reworking her previous designs in new fabrics, including crinkle wool, flannel wool, silk, and floral knit, Wu fused pattern-making and garment construction techniques originating from the East and West. She impressed fashionistas with her well-tailored attire with its unexpected detailing.

"I want to like start again with some older pieces that everyone can see why I've done the past, what I'm doing now, and what I might head into in the future," the designer noted.

"It's also about my bicultural upbringing," said Wu. "I put everything into the collection to reflect my emotions and how I perceived my upbringing."

Wu grew up in south China's Guangdong Province until the age of five and then moved to Australia with her parents. Eastern and Western cultures have left their stamps on the aesthetic of the designers' pieces, which were mirrored by the garments on the runway.

"For example, in the Eastern culture, the garments are flatter and more covered. There is room for movement and there are a lot of layers, whereas in the Western culture, it's more tailored and fitted to your body," Wu said, noting that she tried to keep a balance between the two styles.

In her collection, an asymmetrical blazer bonded with reflective knit was perfectly matched with a pair of loose-fitting twisted pleat trousers. A green cropped jacket and mini skirt combo featured a Chinese floral pattern, with a jade charm dangling at the model's waist as she strutted down the catwalk.

The innovative designer also stitched frog buttons on a layered blazer, made laser-cut acrylic accouterments using the motif of the Chinese character "Fu," and reinvented traditional cotton textiles for a more contemporary look.

"When I was researching Chinese traditional garments (Ming and Qing Dynasties), I saw elements such as flat, baggy, layering, slits and ties. These are the elements that I have incorporated into my designs," Wu said.

From quilted clothes worn by people in China, the peony painting hung up on the wall at her grandmother's house, to the decor in tea houses where she had dim sum with her family, all things Wu saw growing up became a source of inspiration. Wu told Xinhua that as she grew older, she knew about Chinese culture better. What Wu once regarded as "old-fashioned" now looked "actually quite cool" to her. "And I can make it into my own way," she said.

Meanwhile, Wu appreciated her experience of living in Australia. It was on a textile course in high school that Wu got her first glimpse of the fashion industry. With encouragement from her textile teachers, who were also invited by Wu to her show, she decided to pursue a bachelor's degree in design at the University of Technology Sydney.

After reaching a major milestone at the 2023 Australian Fashion Week, Wu thought about extending the collection, having a few pieces available for pre-order, and creating custom garments.

The 25-year-old designer followed a one-step-at-a-time approach for her burgeoning career, saying that maybe she would have her solo show next year.

Editor: WJH
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