Xiaowu Zheng challenges the boundary of fashion

Xiaowu Zheng is Chinese-born. The New York City-based designer and fashion curator got inspired by the retro 90’s anti-fashion era. His style is unconventionally constructed, and highly relatable to the modern time.

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Xiaowu Zheng’s recent curation on fashion exhibits includes We Are, 2022, featured at the Culture Lab LIC gallery, in partnership with Jessica Rigby – a buyer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the upcoming You Are the Lab Rat, 2023, with Creative Agency DUNDU.N International.

Events like those provide opportunities and platforms for designers to shine. Promoting New York designer brands, and supporting diverse talent will ultimately move the fashion industry into a more sustainable state. These exhibits show the public that fashion can be utilized for more than just dressing up. If designers feel comfortable expressing their true sentiments of fashion, then they’ll inevitably establish a world for more creatives to thrive in. Xiaowu’s expertise enables him to help others evolve and give back to the community.

The Definition of Xiaowu Zheng.

A storyteller and visionary

Xiaowu Zheng studied design at Pratt Institute, and graduated with a B.F.A in Fashion Apparel Design. He is professionally trained in virtually every angle of the industry. His earlier works include a series of intimate collections. The first was Karma, F/W 2018 collection. He transformed casual wear into free-formed pieces with unconventional hemlines, exaggerated measurements, and trad-english inspired patterns.

The motivation of this collection was to break away for the dated gender role concepts, and adopt a more modern mindset to fashion. It pushes against societal pressures impressed upon people, making them feel trapped in their own minds. Each garment in this collection had a unique portrayal of being different and breaking free of the norm.

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What followed next was his Redesign project with sportswear brand ‘47. Xiaowu reinterpreted ‘47 deadstock apparel into very relaxed modern streetwear. From basic material, he created a “rebirth” of garments metaphorically by utilizing deadstock. There’s a distinct voice to Xiaowu’s brand, which he continues to carry throughout his career. His vision as a designer comes from a deep exploration of self. He confronted the darker corners of society to express imagination and ingenuity through his designs.

He confronts his fears through the process of creation. Psychotic S/S 2019 was his second collection. The pieces showed versatility in texture and a deep rich color palette. The full relaxed style of the silhouettes had unconventional ruching details and plush volumes. The large tailored suits with creative styling was a break from the monotony of conventional stiff structured tailoring.

Xiaowu Zheng continues to brave the dark side of humanity in his work. His talent for taking the mundane and transforming it into art is a skill most designers have yet to fine tune. Man in the Corner, F/W 2020, is his third collection that followed. The mood was dreamlike and surreal. The pieces are creatively designed with silver garment accents throughout. Floral patterns added softness to the deconstructed work shirts and leather textiles. It’s expressive and lush with otherworldly design elements. He is definitely not afraid of thinking outside the box. This collection is a reflection of consumerism; calling attention to the cult-like following of designer brands.

Xiaowu is always evolving in his work. He continues to push the limits of fashion and break barriers, while still staying true to his vision. First of Seven S/S 2021 is his fourth collection. The styles are compelling with a sustainable neutral toned color palette. Each fabric choice is reminiscent of muslin, and has a free deconstructed approach. The silhouettes have size-versatility and transeasonal design. There’s an organic, sophisticated, yet chic style aesthetic to this collection. The collections inspiration was derived from Chinese mythology & folklore, evoking viewer’s emotions through horror themed elements.

He connects easily with the public through fashion because he understands how art influences the world. His work has been featured in numerous publications like Glamour SA and Vogue Italia. His mentoring of brands and designers have also supported the progression of fashion in terms of innovation and craftsmanship.

As the curator for these exhibitions, he is capable of molding fashion’s future talent. Being on the judging panel for the “We Are” exhibition made an incredible impact on fashion. It served as a mode of artistic expression. The exhibits and runway art were created by international designers and artist selected from top of their field. The focus was “inner exploration” or finding one’s temple, contemplating life’s purpose. Designers brought imagination and beauty into the space. The audience was able to venture deep into the minds of the artist through their fashion.

Xiaowu’s professionalism, and achievements show in his work. His experience enables him to choose the right talent and present their work in the best way possible. His collaboration with Czong Institute for Contemporary Art (CICA Museum) includes not only the displaying of his collections throughout the years of Art Teleported exhibitions (2020, 2023), but also the creative direction and curation of Art Teleported Runway (2020). It’s a great example of his ability to level up fashion’s potential. The goal of this exhibition is to create a global network among nomadic artists, designers, and communities to promote cultures and fluidity. It also encourages inclusivity amongst people and exposure so the audience can learn to appreciate artistic expressions from other cultures.

His work featured in Latitude Gallery’s It’s Time to Reduce the Backlog 2021 exhibition showcased creative pieces made in an unusual and trying time. The purpose of this exhibit was to survey the landscape of contemporary art made by artists whose practices include a wide range of mediums: paint, sketch, sculpture, and video. Xiaowu’s work stood out because of his careful attention to detail, and utilization of textiles that supported his vision. It was innovative and stunning; the incorporation of red tones amongst organic material like hair and text laden fabric was thought provoking and beautifully displayed. His exceptional work also garnered him an invite by One Management to present his collection as a runway show at Spring Studios during 2021 NYFW.

In May 2023, he will be a judge for the You Are the Lab Rat exhibition. Xiaowu will select New York’s finest design talent, for this event. His mastery of clothing construction will definitely help him make the best picks. Designers chosen will have beauty in craftsmanship and artistry in design.

Being a fashion designer who stays true to a vision is tricky in a world of mass consumerism. In order for real artists to shine, they need mentors who can resist old ideologies of fashion, and embrace a more inclusive inspiring future. Xiaowu has proven to be a great leader in fashion with an inspiring body of work to back him. Issues that impact the world can be communicated in many ways. His art brings light to true fashion expressing the state of the world today.

Xiaowu Zheng is a staple in the fashion community. He’s as not just an indispensable designer or curator, but also a great mentor to other designers that appreciate the artistry of fashion.

Fashion Designer: Xiaowu Zheng @xiaowu_zheng_ishere.
Photography: Mu Yuan @muyuan_luis  and Siqin Bian @siqinbian. 
PR Team: Dundu.n International @dundu.n.international.

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