The ecol­ogy of fash­ion

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG YING in Shang­hai


Chi­nese in­de­pen­dent de­signer Zhang Na had al­ready won much praise for her fash­ion col­lec­tion at a show in Aus­tria. But all that praise later turned into re­spect when peo­ple dis­cov­ered that more than 20 clothes in her col­lec­tion were re­cy­cled from used cloth­ing.

“I did not tell the or­ga­nizer in ad­vance be­cause I didn’t want to make it a big deal. Ap­par­ently they did not ex­pect a Chi­nese to do some­thing like this,” said the 35-year-old Bei­jing na­tive.

Born into a fam­ily of scholars and artists, Zhang stud­ied fash­ion de­sign at MOD’ART In­ter­na­tional Paris and Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts be­fore mov­ing to Shang­hai in 2004, cit­ing the city’s easy ac­cess to a “suf­fi­cient in­dus­trial chain for a fash­ion in­dus­try” as well as her fas­ci­na­tion with Shang­hai be­ing where her fa­vorite writer Eileen Chang used to live and write.

Zhang later es­tab­lished her fash­ion la­bel Fake Na­too in 2008 and af­ter spend­ing a cou­ple of years de­vel­op­ing her own brand, she started to pon­der about the ne­ces­sity of pro­duc­ing new clothes sea­son af­ter sea­son. She re­al­ized that in­stead of cre­at­ing new cloth­ing all the time, it would be more in­ter­est­ing and mean­ing­ful to turn old gar­ments into new cre­ations. With that in mind, she started the Re­cloth­ing Bank in 2010, de­ter­mined to give old cloth­ing a new lease of life. The cre­ations at the Aus­tria fash­ion show were the first batch of re­fash­ioned clothes by Zhang.

“It is good to see fast fash­ion brands like Zara and H&M pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity for young Chi­nese peo­ple to buy af­ford­able clothes with sim­i­lar styles as top lux­ury brands. But do we re­ally need so many new clothes?” she said.

“Each used piece of cloth­ing tells a story of their owner’s hap­pi­ness or sor­rows, and they de­serve to be treated well,” Zhang added.

Since 2010, Zhang has re­fash­ioned nearly 500 pieces of cloth­ing, ac­cord­ing to the fash­ion sea­sons, for Re­cloth­ing Bank. Most of them were sold do­mes­ti­cally. Although the act of re­cy­cling gar­ments is free, pro­cesses such as clean­ing and dis­in­fect­ing, de­con­struc­tion of the cloth­ing as well as re­design and restruc­tur­ing are not. It takes Zhang be­tween two weeks and a month to re­fash­ion a piece of cloth­ing.

“Ev­ery piece of cloth­ing has its unique char­ac­ter­is­tics from the age it was from, and what I am do­ing is to re­call its spe­cial fea­tures and adapt them to the mod­ern con­text,” she said.

With her own brand hav­ing suc­cess­fully taken off, Zhang said that she is now able to de­vote half her time and ef­forts to build­ing up the Re­cloth­ing Bank pro­ject. She has no plans of ex­pand­ing this pro­ject but she does be­lieve that it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore peo­ple em­brace the prin­ci­ples of re­cy­cling and this way of fash­ion.

“It is like a flower, which only blooms when the time is right. And you will know once it is ripe,” she said.

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