For Xu Zhi’s AW19 collection, the audience was invited into his story through the medium of dance. Now, don’t get too excited – this wasn’t a mass Hokey Cokey in the name of fashion, but a story that unfolded through the movement of bodies and brief encounters.
Setting the scene, Xu Zhi created a story of a café where strangers come and go, experiencing a fleeting – and sometimes literal – dance with another. They meet and interact for only a short moment before moving on: their stories short and wholly captivating, accentuated by the haunting sounds of the accompanying pianist. What unites these strangers we’ll never know – except, of course, for their Xu Zhi garms. Duh.
Whether the story resonated with the viewer or not, it was fairly impossible not to immerse yourself in the design. As is the shift we are seeing across the board, the collection expanded to include menswear alongside the women’s, blurring gender and fabric lines to create a fluid and interpretative collection. As a brand built on a feminine image, it's certainly an interesting move - but a sensible one too as Zhi gears up for a new partnership with Chinese online giant, JD.com. From the jarring asymmetric hems, column fits and awkward lengths to the androgynous blouses and boxy-shoulder tailoring, boundaries were suspended and the models were one. From heavy faux fur and mesh to low-brim headwear, there was a sense of hiding the figure beneath. The intention? Anonymity, allowing the protagonists in this particular tale to blur in and out of focus and the moment, existing only momentarily in Zhi’s distorted reality.
Yet, out of nowhere, a vision in hot pink appeared with a fringed dress and hoop-handled bucket bag to die for. Anonymous? Unlikely in that get up, but it's the kind of femininity Xu Zhi is known for. This was the look that turned brief cafe encounters into lingering moments; first glances into double takes. We’ll have what she ordered.