Rui Xu blends Chinese dress and modern couture

Rui Xu blends ancient Chinese dress and contemporary couture for fashion exhibition

Shimmering and billowing garments by Chinese fashion designer Rui Xu will be presented in an exhibition at London's Royal College of Art.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

From Xuan to Blindness, which opens 21 August 2015, includes a collection of Xu's designs that are a cross between Chinese hanfu robes and the oversized couture pieces from the contemporary Parisian fashion houses.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

Using the non-structural shapes of the traditional apparel, she borrows tailoring details and western-style collars to update the looks.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

"My ambition is to revive the spirit of the ancient Chinese literati society in today's fashion," said Xu. "I want to bring the loftiness and luxury of Chinese noblemen and noblewomen and empower the spiritual freedom to the wearer of my garments."

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

Her influences also include the philosophies of "naturalness" and "nonaction" found in Taoism – a religious tradition of Chinese origin that emphasises living in harmony with the universe's natural order.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

Many of the items are plated with metal, which is burnt to create iridescent patterns across the cloth, while others are made from crinkled paper.

Xu studied fashion at Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts and is now undertaking a research programme at the RCA. The designer has also opened her own studio in London's South Kensington, close to the RCA's campus.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

The exhibition is curated by Claire Pajaczkowska, senior research tutor in fashion and textiles at the institution.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

In the first section, garments on show include a skirt with four trouser legs from the designer's Xiang Wang Yi series that aims to contrast with strict western tailoring.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

The second part includes Xu's composite artworks, in which she has captured the unusual fabrics she chooses in a series of images that look like fantasy landscapes.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

Xu's collaboration with Hong Kong textile specialist Kinor Jiang is shown in the third section. The duo used metal plating to cover delicate natural fabrics then used heat to burnish colourful patterns across the material – a similar technique employed by Iris van Herpen for her Autumn Winter 2015 collection.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

Xu is one of many emerging Chinese fashion designers and houses, such as Laurence Xu, Shang-Xia, Zhang Huishan and Pei Guo.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

The exhibition will run until 30 August 2015 in the Upper Gulbenkian Gallery at the RCA's Kensington Gore campus.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

During the opening event, visitors will be presented with a 10-minute-long performance directed by Madaleine Trigg from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

Ten artists wearing Xu's paper dresses will portray the Chinese philosophy of Xuan – which is linked to Taoism and lends its name to the exhibition title.

From Xuan to Blindness by Rui Xu exhibition at Royal College of Art

An exhibition currently running at New York's Met museum also examines the influence of Chinese culture on fashion design.

London's most successful fashion exhibition for years – Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty – closed earlier this month, and Dezeen spoke exclusively to the late designer's close collaborator Shaun Leane about their work together.