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Designer taps into bicultural upbringing

Updated: 2023-06-02 09:59 ( China Daily Global )
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SYDNEY — While big brands often commandeer the spotlight at a fashion week, up-and-coming new faces can also turn heads as they hold the potential to wow the industry with their creativity.

Awarded as one of the four Next Gen designers by Australian Fashion Week, Xizhu Wu finished her debut runway show in a refurbished gallery at the Carriageworks in Sydney, beaming with joy and relief.

"It's my first proper runway show, which I'm very excited about, but I'm feeling a lot more relieved now that the show's over. Now I can relax a little, move on and focus on the next thing," Wu says.

For the young Chinese Australian who founded her own label Xi Wu Studio, it took about five months to create a brand-new collection, from sketches to ready-for-runway pieces, with "nostalgia" as the core concept.

By reworking her previous designs in new fabrics, including crinkle wool, flannel wool, silk and floral knit, Wu fused pattern-making and garment construction techniques originating from the East and the West. Her well-tailored attire impressed fashionistas with its unexpected detailing.

"I wanted to start again with some older pieces so that everyone can see what I've done in the past, what I'm doing now, and what direction I might take in the future," the designer says.

"It's also about my bicultural upbringing," says Wu. "I put everything into the collection to reflect my emotions and how I perceived my upbringing."

Wu grew up in South China's Guangdong province until the age of 5 and then moved to Australia with her parents. Both Eastern and Western culture have left their stamp on the aesthetic of the designer's work, which was mirrored in the garments on the runway.

"For example, in Eastern culture, the garments are flatter with more coverage. There is room for movement and there are a lot of layers, whereas in Western culture, it's more tailored and fitted to your body," Wu says, noting that she tried to keep a balance between the two styles.

In her collection, an asymmetrical blazer bonded with a reflective knit was perfectly matched with a pair of loose-fitting, twisted pleat trousers. A green cropped jacket and miniskirt combo featured a Chinese floral pattern, with a jade charm dangling at the model's waist as she strutted down the catwalk.

The innovative designer also stitched frog buttons on a layered blazer, made laser-cut acrylic accouterments using the Chinese character fu as a motif, and reinvented traditional cotton textiles for a more contemporary look.

"When I was researching Chinese traditional garments from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, I saw elements such as flat, baggy layering, slits and ties. These are the elements that I have incorporated into my designs," Wu says.

From quilted clothes worn by people in China, the peony painting hung up on the wall at her grandmother's house, to the decor in tea houses where she had dim sum with her family, all things Wu saw growing up became a source of inspiration. Wu says that as she grew older, she developed a deeper understanding of Chinese culture. What Wu once regarded as "old-fashioned "now looked "actually quite cool" to her. "And I can apply my own style," she says.

Meanwhile, Wu appreciates her experience of living in Australia. It was on a textile course in high school that Wu got her first glimpse of the fashion industry. With encouragement from her teachers, who she invited to her show, Wu decided to pursue a bachelor's degree in design at the University of Technology Sydney.

After reaching a major milestone at the 2023 Australian Fashion Week, Wu is thinking about extending the collection, having a few pieces available for preorder and creating custom garments.

The 25-year-old designer follows a one-step-at-a-time approach to her burgeoning career, saying that she may hold her first solo show next year.


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