Ever using traditional craft as the starting point of his practice, Su Wenhai graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 2013. Today, the designer is based in Shenzhen, China, where he operates under the ZAZ moniker. Embarking on an almost impossible journey for ‘The Future of Fashion is Now’, ZAZ travelled back in time to (re)create a rare material: gambiered canton gauze silk. We asked him some questions about the work – now on show in Shenzhen.
What was the initial idea behind your work for ‘The Future of Fashion is Now’?
When I was chosen for the exhibition I decided that I wanted to work on something that is close to me. As I was born in China, I thought I would like to do something that is traditionally Chinese, and look at some aspect of my mother country. Today, in the global environment, I think China is a very important part of the system. I chose to look at its very traditional dyeing technology. Having said that I didn’t want to just stay in the past, I wanted to do something new and look to the future. It was quite a big challenge for me to work on this commission, but I’m very happy to be a part of it.
How did the thought develop after that?
Before the exhibition, I already had the idea to research this fabric. This exhibition actually gave me the chance to do it. I started two months previous to the opening because the development of this fabric needed sunshine and good weather. Throughout the two months we only got seven days of sunshine, so it was very difficult for me to finish this. Usually the dyeing technique is carried out from April to October, but I managed somehow to make it work during the winter.
Do you think the future of fashion is bright?
I think the system of fashion must be changed. It is already changing in many ways, however. Previously the focus was all on the big brands, but now social media are giving everyone a chance to do something and prove him or herself, or show the world something. I think the future of fashion is more colourful.
What do you want to show and communicate through your work?
I hope the audience can see the traditional side of my works but also understand that we can learn from excellent traditional craft – without staying in the past. The future is always exciting; it encourages us to find the new possibilities from the past and the present.