Luxury high-end designers who quickly planted their boutiques in Asia’s big city centres when news broke that Asian consumers were spending copious amounts of money to mirror their western counterparts, may soon regret their expansionist policy. Boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci may soon be shrinking their footprint in these territories with the recent news that the Chinese economy is poised to make a hard landing. Business executives from across the United Kingdom will be keen to hear what key business representatives from Shanghai have to say about the future of the Asian economy, specifically in the regions of art and fashion.

The Style Now Shanghai Event, which has been organised since 2014 by the Government of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and the Government of the People’s Republic of China, launched this week in the lead up to London Fashion Week, with a series of events to promote the creative diversity of Shanghai and hopefully incite business exchange for the two countries in the shifting economic climate ahead.

PETRIe’s Editor-in-Chief, Zadrian Smith, attended the opening exhibition, Seven Faces of an Amazing Life, which included the work of 14 fashion designers, two accessory designers and four artists to expose the British audience to the rich cultural diversity in Shanghai.

In this interview, Smith speaks with the exhibition’s curator, Ivy Zhou, and discovers what she hopes the message will convey to a British audience.

Zadrian Smith: How did you get involved with the Style Now Shanghai Event?

Ivy Zhou: It’s an interesting experience actually, because I am from the art world. Most of my previous work is dealing with contemporary art in China, but I’m also a very big fan of Chinese independent fashion designers because I buy their clothes and wear them. Also, one of the designers exhibited here, Zhang Da, when showed during Shanghai Fashion Week, he used normal people on the catwalk.

ZS: Were you one of the ‘normal’ people?

IZ: Yes, and that’s how I got involved with the fashion business. Shanghai Fashion Week contacted me and asked me to work with them on the exhibition here in London.

ZS: How long have you been working on the exhibition?

IZ: For me, it’s one month only, but the staff of the Shanghai Fashion Week organising committee have been working on this for a long time. They did a lot of research. So, my work is based on their work.

ZS: Did you find it difficult to create a unifying synergy between art, fashion and performing art in the exhibition?

IZ: It is difficult actually, quite a challenge for me and even when showing only fashion designers, it’s not easy because fashion designers have different styles and each speak their own language. So, it’s not really easy to put them all together. So, we try to find a new way to make a story in the exhibition. We created Seven Faces of an Amazing Life, seven scenes each with a different story. The scenes are Teen Spirit, Street Mavericks, Geometry – Math is Fun!, Talking to a Plant, Island Saga, Awakening and Reclothing Bank.

ZS: The exhibition is curated into seven scenes. What is the story behind these scenes?

IZ: When I thought about how I can exhibit everything in one exhibition to explain the diversity and energy of the Shanghai creative industry, the first impression I got was from Angel Chen’s collection. She is so young and graduated from Central Saint Martins and her graduate collection is about a wedding of two young girls who meet and fall in love in Africa and then get married in Africa. So, she made the wedding gowns for them. This is how the exhibition started. I think everyone has imagined their own wedding and this was a good common place to start.

ZS: So, the starting point of this exhibition about Asian designers was with an African wedding?

IZ: Yes and also the Museum of Friendship, their collection about Iceland, which is about two girls on a trip in Iceland. This is also a scene that we have in our own life, travels with friends to discover new places.

ZS: It sounds like you took very human experiences and used those as starting points to curate the exhibition.

IZ: Yes, that is correct.

ZS: How do you think the British public will respond to the exhibition?

IZ: I think it’s not easy for people to understand a lot of new Chinese designers, but a lot of the designers in the exhibition have studied at some of London’s top universities such as Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion. So, there are some very British sentiments conveyed that the audience will hopefully connect with.

ZS: What is one of the highlights of the exhibition for you?

IZ: This is such a difficult question to answer. I have interviewed several curators before and this is always a difficult question to answer. They are all very good and everyone has their own language.

ZS: What do you want people to remember post-exhibition?

IZ: I want the British audience to know that the creative industry in Shanghai is very diverse and most importantly I want the exhibition to create more business and creative opportunities for the designers and artists involved.

Seven Faces of an Amazing Life is on exhibition 15th – 18th September at The Hospital Club/Gallery from 10:30 – 17:00.

Words: Zadrian Smith

Image Source: Style Now Shanghai 'Seven Faces of an Amazing Life' exhibition, 2015