Recent Parsons grad Rui Zhou may barely have one foot out of the classroom, nevertheless, her striking experiments in knitwear have the fashion industry taking notice.
When the Parsons MFA candidates presented their graduate collections last season, the lineup was nothing short of stellar. Kicking things off with a rather daring web-like knitted bodysuit was 25-year-old Rui Zhou. The young designer followed that ensemble with seven more of a similar vein, each playing with differing overlays of color and cling. “A second skin” is how Zhou described the work, adding that as a designer her process is “driven most by emotions and moved by subtle detail.” We caught up with Zhou to learn more about this intriguing young talent and find out what’s next:
What have you been up to post-graduation?
I recently completed an internship at DKNY and I’m now looking forward to devoting myself full-time to building my brand and my next collection.
You also received an undergraduate degree in fashion design in Beijing. What made you want to continue your studies in New York?
My foundation had been focused on womenswear and I was really looking forward to exploring knitwear. I actually moved back to China briefly simply due to the high cost of living in New York but quickly realized that it would limit my market. So it’s really important for me to finish the first collection here, where I have a stronger relationship with the press and potential buyers.
Do you have any family members in the fashion industry/What influenced your choice of career?
Actually none. My sister works in finance and we grew up in a very small town in the Hunan Province but I have such vivid memories of going on shopping trips with my mother and I think those memories were definitely an influence.
Your work is quite abstract so it’s difficult to spot a clear inspiration. What is your biggest influence?
My emotions and my relationships with my mother and sister. I studied textile design in China so I’m more sensitive to texture in terms of telling a story.
China has such a rich design history--does your home country have an effect on your designs at all?
Definitely, I love Chinese poetry and fairytales. My friends tell me they can spot it in my designs but I avoid making any literal references. We have our own views which are similar to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi and I try to embrace that as much as possible.
Is the collection you’re working on now a continuation of your graduate collection? How do you see it evolving?
I really see my graduate collection as establishing the DNA of my brand. It’s really unique and special, even if not entirely practical so I intend to split the range into more wearable knits while still continuing to explore the more elastic pieces. My biggest challenge currently is cost and finding a factory. I was fortunate to have Shima Seiki, one of the best companies in the world for knitting machinery, sponsor my Parsons collection. But now that I’m on my own, the costs can be quite exorbitant. And simply because I’m working in ready-to-wear, the garments need to be able to be replicated by machine for the volume.