Dezeen Magazine

Chen Zhi celebrates fashion's "superficial" reputation with colourful knitwear collection

The works of Alexander Calder influenced the bright colours and blocky shapes used by Chen Zhi in her graduate collection, which she hopes puts the fun back in fashion.

Zhi's collection, named Playground, is made up entirely of knitwear pieces – from large bucket-shaped hats to simple skirts and jumpers.

The designer, who graduated from the London College of Fashion this year, wanted to question the place of "serious concepts" in fashion with a playful collection.

"It seems people are ashamed of the reality that fashion is superficial and they're trying to define themselves as the artist," Zhi said. "Everyone is trying to sell a story when they try to sell their collection; it seems the collection should be profound and significant."

"However, I found that I am losing the initial joy of creating a garment if I have to impose a concept on my work," she continued. "Thus I started to contemplate if I need a serious concept to pitch my collection. If fashion is superficial, why should I pretend it isn't?"

Having visited an exhibition of the American sculptor Alexander Calder, Zhi was inspired by the simplicity of his work, especially his signature mobiles.

"Calder's aerial sculptures are unquestionably beautiful," she said. "Delicately balanced arrangements of forms like fluttering leaves, subatomic particles or celestial bodies, suspended from the lightest possible cat's cradle wire."

"The boundary between a kid's toy and a piece of art is blurred. In the specifications of his artwork, there was no obscure and intricate words – it is simple and happy."

Zhi said that the works had an impressive effect on her process, and she began to conduct her research and development in a less stringent way.

Using only her "aesthetic instinct", she collected images that simply appealed to her visually. She then projected these images onto a models body and photographed the result.

The photos were used to inform the structure and details for her design, using the lines and shapes generated by the projection.

Working alongside a knitwear technician at the university, Zhi went on to develop a technique to make blocks of colour merge seamlessly in a knitwear pattern.

"The collection is offering a new knitwear that renders a smooth surface that bears intricacy within a harmonious whole, as if the fabrics are born this way, natural and pristine," said Zhi. "This collection redefines knitwear."

Zhi showcased her collection at the London College of Fashion MA catwalk show earlier this year. Dezeen's pick of 10 of the best collections from the institute's BA Fashion show included garments made entirely from antique fabrics and dresses composed of concrete and iron rods.

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