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Diving into FW24 with Sankuanz's Shangguan Zhe

Subtly rebellious personas

Pushing the scene since 2013, SANKUANZ has established it’s name for fusing that which has yet to blend. Designing genderless southeast Asian silhouettes, creative director and founder Shangguan Zhe crafts subtly rebellious personas – so its time to add it to your obsessions list. Through its distinct visual language, the brand channels philosophical notions of faith and collectivism, shaping a dynamic narrative in contemporary fashion. We got the chance to Catch up with Zhe during fashion week diving deep into Sankaunz F/W24, talking everything from challenges, collabs, and of course, the process.

First off, congrats on the show! It was beautiful! How are you feeling now that the collection has shown? 
Thank you for appreciating our new collection! It’s like the final exams are over, the winter vacation is coming, and the Chinese New Year is right around the corner. But in fact we are gonna begin the preparations for the next collection immediately.

What was your favourite part of making this collection? 
The starting point of this collection is my accidental discovery of Seven Diamond Lines by the musician Tadi. This song has been a great source of power and inspiration for me during the last 6 months. Tadi has made a new version specially for the show. This definitely is the most unforgettable and most exciting part for me.

What was the greatest challenge when developing this collection? 
Many Asian designers have actively explored the interpretation of traditional elements in modern fashion. I am also one of these designers. To be honest, it has been a big challenge to present the essence of southeast Asian culture in the method of my own brand and then interpret it in the language of contemporary fashion.

Super interesting, building on that, could you share the journey of reconnecting with Kangrinboqe as a source of inspiration? How did it influence this collection?
The theme of the first collection of Sankuanz, dating back to 2013, was Kangrinboqê. That collection has truly foreshadowed a lot of the development of our brand. Each moment afterward has been determined at the beginning with this primary idea, the initiating attempt, the first intention. So was this collection. So every once in a while, we will come back to this original point for reflection. It has changed many things in an unconscious way, not only the creation, the brand, but also my personal life.

Tell us about the light installation! How did your collab with ENCOR Studio come about? What impact do you hope this installation has on the audience’s perception of the collection? 
ENCOR studio and Sankuanz have been friends for many years and we have collabed on many projects. This time we wanted to present an impression of Kangrinboqê at the center of the runway. Mount Meru, symbolized by Kangrinboqê, represents the center of the world in the Himalayan culture. In the traditional culture, people go on pilgrimage in a clockwise direction around the mountain, the act of which signifying the ultimate yearning for the truth of the universe. The models have done the same at the show, walking around a gigantic rock half-hidden in a haze, located in the center of the runway

Wow, ya know collaboration is crucial to this collection. Can you elaborate on the power this holds for you?
Fusion is very important for my creation. It means conflict, enlightenment and inspiration. I want to collaborate more with creators of diverse cultural backgrounds and explore various possibilities.

Can you elaborate on the creative process behind incorporating elements such as the Tibetan robe draping into contemporary silhouettes? 
It is never easy to integrate traditional costume into modern fashion language. During the design, we kept simplifying the form, taking out most of the details, leaving only the most general form and the most iconic characteristics. So you can see the wrapping shape extending from the collar to the cuff, oversized sleeve hanging loose alongside the lower wear, and also the right hands of the models hidden at the waist.

Now that you say this it makes me think about how the fusion of classicism and modernity is a distinctive feature in this collection. How do you approach this challenge of seamlessly blending elements of luxury and streetwear while maintaining the brand’s identity? 
It is essentially about the use of different materials and the fusion of classic garments. We have done a lot of hand-made distressing, creating stains of a natural feeling. Another important step is remaking of classic modern garments (such as M65 or bomber jacket) and endowing them the shape of traditional costumes.

So this runway is very special for many reasons we already discussed. However, you also debuted a capsule collection inspired by the SANKUANZ’s signature sneaker, Bumpy. Can you share a bit more about the inspiration behind this capsule collection and the Bumpy sneaker itself? 
Eastern and western, classic and modern, street style and fashion… the extensive fusion of these seemingly opposite things means a lot for Sankuanz. We also want each of these elements can be clearer during the process of this fusion. The Bumpy series represents the legacy of the many fusions of painting and fashion during the history of Sankuanz.

And lastly, how do you see this collection pushing the storytelling of SANKUANZ forward?
Who am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going? These questions are fundamental to Sankuanz, as to everyone. I hope that I can find my own answer through ongoing creation.

Words by Ella Paritsky
Photography by Kin Chan
Images courtesy of Sankaunz