There’s some­thing about mar­garet...

Aus­tralian re­nais­sance woman and poly­math MAR­GARET ZHANG tells KIM BUI KOLLAR about the nu­mer­ous hats she wears – in­clud­ing her lat­est turn as a film di­rec­tor

#Legend - - ICON -

IT’S EARLY DE­CEM­BER and Mar­garet Zhang has flown into

Hong Kong for the Fash­ion Asia con­fer­ence. I haven’t seen her since Fash­ion Week and there’s only a small win­dow of three days to try to co­or­di­nate a time with her in between all the mix­ers, gath­er­ings and pro­fes­sional obli­ga­tions. We fi­nally find a time that works – on her last night.

Zhang’s as­sis­tant emails me to let me know that she’ll be 15 min­utes late. But when I roll up, she’s al­ready there, clad in a shear­ling biker jacket, her short blond hair tied into a pony­tail with a vel­vet rib­bon. It’s been a long day for both of us; I or­der a glass of wine, but she de­clines a bev­er­age be­cause she’s al­ready had a lot of tea be­fore our meet­ing.

Most of the world was in­tro­duced to Zhang as a blog­ger. She launched her web­site, Shine by Three, when she was 16 af­ter the re­al­i­sa­tion that she wasn’t go­ing to be able to pur­sue a ca­reer in bal­let. Since then, she’s grad­u­ated from law school, signed with a tal­ent agency, be­come a cre­ative di­rec­tor and a pro­fes­sional fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher, started an agency that helps with dig­i­tal strat­egy and writ­ing for com­pa­nies and or­gan­i­sa­tions, and been on Forbes Asia’s

30 Un­der 30 List and the BoF 500 List. Amid all this, she also moved to New York. And she’s still only 24 years old.

If it feels like the above was ut­tered in one breath, that’s how it feels to me as Zhang non­cha­lantly runs through the list. Mind you, I come from old-world cul­ture, where we work at one thing, with the hopes of do­ing this one thing well. Gulp. I put my wine glass down, feel­ing slightly like an un­der­achiever.

Film-maker is the new­est ad­di­tion to the un­end­ing list of Zhang’s ap­pel­la­tions and ac­co­lades. There’s No Space Left in C# Mi­nor is a 15-minute film that pre­miered in Syd­ney on Novem­ber 9, 2017 and marks her di­rec­to­rial de­but. Though she’s made fash­ion films for brands and her­self, this was a first in terms of some­thing that’s not about sell­ing prod­uct. This one is per­sonal, on her terms, about a topic with which she has a deep con­nec­tion.

With­out re­veal­ing too much, the film is cen­tred on Chopin’s Fan­taisie-Im­promptu in C# Mi­nor, Op. 66 and Zhang’s re­la­tion­ship with music through the var­i­ous stages of her life so far. Zhang is a clas­si­cally trained pi­anist and has been study­ing since she was a child. I went in with­out ex­pec­ta­tions and found it to be cre­ative, visual and very in­ti­mate, which may seem ironic for some­body who has made a liv­ing around shar­ing so many things pub­licly.

“I am an in­tro­vert, but a trained ex­tro­vert,” she tells me. To me, it seems that it’s re­ally im­por­tant to Zhang that she isn’t seen as a typ­i­cal fash­ion in­flu­encer that’s pho­to­genic and shares her daily out­fits, meals and trav­els. She’s smart. She’s cre­ative. She’s driven to be pro­duc­tive. When you’re a cre­ative per­son, this means cre­at­ing as much as you are driven to do – to feed the soul and keep the mind alive.

In the an­i­mated con­ver­sa­tion we have, she re­veals how much she’s learned along the way, how much she still has to learn and how to­tally de­pen­dent she has to be on a team of tech­ni­cal spe­cial­ists – and for some­body who works by her­self, this seems pretty in­ef­fi­cient. She talks about classical music and how it has been por­trayed in the past. We speak about how ro­man­tic Chopin is, and how she wants classical music to be in­clu­sive and viewed with a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

She tells me a funny story about how she was seated near a sea­soned di­rec­tor of photography on a plane. The long flight al­lowed both of them to dis­cuss the projects they were work­ing on – his be­ing a TV show, which Zhang looked up af­ter they landed. Re­al­is­ing what an im­mense fig­ure he was, she was even­tu­ally able to track down a phone num­ber for an of­fice where she could leave him a mes­sage. Months later, he wrapped the show and emailed her back. One thing’s clear: Zhang is not short of de­ter­mi­na­tion.

I leave our con­ver­sa­tion feel­ing en­er­gised. It’s easy to put peo­ple in a par­tic­u­lar cat­e­gory and see them in a lim­ited way. But why do we only have to do one thing? Zhang re­minds me of an artist in that way, where ev­ery­thing she does in­forms ev­ery­thing else. But it’s her smarts and her fear­less­ness that won’t stop her from achiev­ing what­ever she wants to do.

We make plans to catch up in New York dur­ing Fash­ion Week. There’s this dumpling restau­rant in the West Vil­lage, where she lives, that she wants to take me to. “Ang Lee goes there all the time,” she ex­claims. “Of course, I to­tally nerd out.”

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