Huishan Zhang marked his first on-schedule salon show at London Fashion Week with another first for his young brand—prints.

The NEWGEN-sponsored designer kept to his theme of ladylike dresses for spring summer 2013, but added runic-looking prints into the mix.

‘I saw some very old tablecloths with hand-embroidery... I thought I should do something with it,’ he said backstage. ‘It’s all good symbols that mean different wishes.’ Small birds signified freedom; herons, wishes for long life; small flowers, resilience. ‘These flowers only grow in wintertime, so they’re very tough.’

Tough, and canny too, since his Chinese customers will clock the symbolism immediately. Women with piles of party invitations the world over won’t mind if the meaning of the birds and the blooms passes them by—not when there are such tasty little dresses to contend with.

Zhang cites the intersection of Chinese and western cultures as his main inspiration, and it shows in the shapes as well as the patterns. Cheongsam silhouettes reigned in the cobalt blue and aquamarine dresses. He introduced print-mixing jacket/trouser combos into the line-up too. If there was a lot going on in some of the pieces—bristly, stand-up beading AND lace overlay AND backlessness AND print—it came together to the most modern effect here.

On the whole, these were lady clothes with racy touches, like skirt seams picked out in mesh, or a zip-open thigh slit.

Back to the prints. Another one, this time depicting small mahjong tiles, Chinese characters and skiffs carrying three figures each, came from a more playful place. 

‘I just told my graphic designer, “Let’s do something very funny. What do you think your mum’s going to like? Let’s do mahjong! And all the Chinese families have only three people, so here are only three people on the boat: me and my mum and my dad.’

After a show like this, he’s sure to have more people clamouring for a spot in the boat. One dress at a time.

 
 
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