Yvonne Yao, the designer director of Shanghai Tang, the iconic brand from China, reveals us her vision for the new SS24 collection
Text by: Nicola Sacchi
As the Designer Director of Shanghai Tang, can you tell us about the challenges you’ve faced during the process of growing inside the company and your artistic vision today?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced and am facing, is to understand and respect the powerful heritage of the brand yet bring it to the luxury fashion with a contemporary vison. Zeitgeist needs to be present in the design process to avoid creating a stereotypical Chinese historical image. Following the expansion of Shanghai Tang’s commerce, it is the responsibility to introduce Sir David Tang’s legacy to a new and broad audience in a right way.
Which themes did you work on for designing this collection and which elements inspired you the most?
The collection was initially inspired by an ancient Chinese poem, “The Daunting Route into the Region of Shu”, which was written 1400 years ago. The poem depicts the unconquerable hardships and dangers of nature, whereas at that time most other Chinese poems praise the beauty of landscapes by their magnificent mountains and rivers.
“Primitive” was the word first came to my mind in the beginning of the design process. A series of traditional natural dyed silk was used as one of the key materials. I also respond to the word “primitive” by integrating with traditional cutting methods, with which a piece of flat fabric can be transformed into a wearable garment in a simple and clever way. Natural fabrics like linen, cotton, silk, are used throughout, with techniques like stone wash and sand wash.
As the extention of the poem, an imagined human is placed in the scenery. The brave attempt to engage with the ultra dangerous landscape leaves the sensation of vitality and optimism. The outcome of the imagined human story is irrelevant, instead, the essence is the attemp itself. In opposition to conquering the landscape, it is about following it and co-exsting with the nature. The Great Wall is a perfect representation of this concept. Its construction follows shapes of the mountains, hills and depressions, their ups, downs and curves. While climbing the mountain one reacts to the structure of rocks, angel of the ground and their own gravity. Every action is reaaction and every reaction is an intercation.
The main material of the SS24 Collection is silk, which is a relevant Chinese cultural heritage. Can you tell us about how the strong reference of this heritage merges with the values and design of Shanghai Tang?
The tea silk name might be misleading as the actual process requires the fabric to be buried in the river mud, which results in a smooth texture and dark brown coating to the silk. As a pioneer of inheriting traditional Chinese handicrafts, Shanghai Tang has modernized and reinterpreted the long history of the tea silk. By slashing and mixing different pieces of tea silk patterns, a renewed impact of the silk is presented, and results in heightened sophistication.
The new Tang Jacket includes the pocket of wisdom; can you tell us more about this stylistic choice?
The idea of pocket of wisdom, originally comes from a Chinese idiom (“锦囊妙记”). The literal meaning for that is: a silk pocket carries a wise idea. It is a witty response to the poem: with this silk pocket, you can conquer the difficulties, as the name of the poem is called “The Daunting Route into the Region of Shu”. It’s a playful idea to stitch the pocket of wisdom to the Tang Jacket as a hint of the idiom.
Could you describe how Shanghai Tang creates a high-level dialogue between the ancient Chinese culture and the Italian one?
Working within the brand’s classic storyline of iconic Chinese silhouettes, Shanghai Tang introduces a contemporary collaboration between Italy and China through the choice of fabrics and Italian craftsmanship. The exquisite tailoring as well as best quality fabrics and elegance are synonymous with Italian fashion, and that is exactly what Shanghai Tang values.
Which stylistic codes are always present in Shanghai Tang creations?
The introduction of surprise and playfulness to the iconic Chinese silhouettes and elements like Qipao and Tang Jacket with its handmade frog buttons and stand collar. Vibrant colours have always been preferred by Sir David Tang himself, are also present in 24SS collection as a tribute, with the use of the fabrics like silk and velvet.