It’s often tempting when writing reviews of the collections to compare one designer with another. For the most part I try not to, but I confess that when I first walked into the Crush Hall at the Dorchester on Monday for Huishan Zhang’s autumn/winter 2014 presentation, I thought of Jason Wu. And then I looked a little closer and I realised that what I was actually looking at was couture levels of detail with an unmistakably ‘London’ edge.
This shouldn’t come as a great surprise from a man who spent a year working for Dior, of which six months were in the couture atelier, and who fuses his Chinese heritage with the creative freedom afforded him by basing his studio in London. It’s quite the cocktail, and it made for an astoundingly accomplished collection for autumn/winter 2014.
This season, Zhang was inspired by Chinese landscapes, which played out in a subtle way using textures and traditional oriental floral motifs. For me, one of the most exciting aspects of his designs is his deft touch on the line between sexy and feminine. An unexpected sheer lace panel here; an insouciantly undone crystal-tipped zip there – but never more than a tantalising glimpse of skin was revealed underneath his delicate dresses.
London is often considered to be the most outré of the ‘big four’ fashion weeks – often pushing the boundaries of taste, wearability, and sometimes even legality – and for this, we love it. But here is a designer who is starting a quiet revolution; who says, “I can take the commerciality of New York, the sumptuous textiles of Milan and the fine details of Paris and add just a touch of London cool, and I can make it work.” And we love that, too.