Shedding caution, Dingyun Zhang launched her eponymous clothing brand in February 2021 amid a pandemic that brought fashion supply chains to their knees. It wouldn’t be so bad if Zhang mostly dabbled in simple hoodies or sweatpants, perhaps, but the Central Saint Martins graduate specializes in one of the most demanding mediums of all casual wear.
Zhang’s practice is entirely defined by huge down jackets, coats, vests, and pants, sometimes cutting these pieces so huge they swallow the human form whole.
At CSM, he cut his teeth working with Kanye West on YEEZY SEASON collections — you can see nuances of Zhang’s enduring legacy in things like the YEEZY GAP Round Jacket.
Ye’s influence, meanwhile, is felt in the generous cuts that Zhang prefers, reflecting the deep cultural influences absorbed into her design practice.
“Silhouettes capable of existing with down jackets and padded materials also express my love of hip-hop style and culture,” Zhang told Highsnobiety. “Then I abstract them with influences from artists like Christo and Jeanne-Claude.”
“I also often research ethnic groups who live in extreme weather conditions, as this influences the way their clothes look and their lifestyle. What they eat and wear is often related to the environment they live in. have.”
Similar environmental inspiration informs Zhang’s brilliant Spring/Summer 2022 collaboration with Moncler Genius, which will launch on Moncler website and stores on February 10.
After previous crosses with Birkenstock and Zonedthis Moncler bond is the young designer’s most involved partnership to date.
Zhang went more conceptual with these designs, drawing inspiration from Moncler’s native mountains, deep-sea wildlife, and even the distorted shapes of inflatable swimming pools submerged in water.
These disparate inspirations were translated into Zhang’s puffy overlays, with results resembling plush coral reefs layered over the body.
“I wanted to create simultaneous shock and harmony between my construction ideas and traditional Moncler details,” Zhang said.
Zhang and Moncler have also created exaggerated masks, leggings and bike shorts to layer under his puffy outerwear, all done in organic hues that ironically become alien when applied to Zhang’s exaggerated shapes.
“Moncler allowed me to work on their materials, trims and patches that were the brand’s signature,” Zhang continued. “They didn’t allow COVID-19 to be an obstacle to this collaboration and sent me all the material I needed to explore all the possibilities of form and detail. It was a chance to translate their traditions and heritage in my own language, recognizing that there is no present or future without a past.”
The innovations that followed in the silhouette testify to Moncler’s desire to give its Genius program the space to perform at its peak, well genius. It’s a good strategy: this open-mindedness has only boosted the fortunes of the Italian company.
Moncler’s support allowed Zhang to take the time to implement subtle details, like hidden zip pockets and Chinese-style knotted buttons, and refine some of his difficult structural concerns.
“References to deep sea creatures created holes and openings in some of the clothing, which encapsulate the human form while simultaneously allowing air to reach certain parts of the body,” Zhang explained. “And I used collage techniques to create a gutter structure on a jacket, accelerating the flow of rain out of the body.”
The collection, an impressive flex of creative muscle, also reflects Zhang’s rapid growth as an independent designer. Remember: he only launched his brand a year ago.
“The transition from designer grad to starting my own business has been a mixed experience, with COVID heavily affecting the production side of my business and really limiting my ability to quit,” he said. “Working with the right level of production is important to make my creations real.”
This is where the Genius collaboration goes from a simple co-signature to a real creative boon: “Working with Moncler has been a kind of response to the demand and criticism of my collections which have not yet been officially abandoned.”
“The opportunity to release real-life pieces to the market, which remind me of and are so influenced by my own vision, is an opportunity I was grateful to be part of.”
This limitless demand that Zhang refers to comes from his more than 100,000 Instagram followers, who adore Zhang’s adventurous designs and beg him to release more products.
This is where the pandemic-induced production issues arise, of course, but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. In this case, it’s courtesy of Moncler.
“Working with a company like Moncler, which has all the resources and architecture I would need to create, has been a limitless process in terms of balancing the design and production of my sculptural language,” Zhang continued.
“I appreciate how people have resonated with my work and been influenced to create their own artwork inspired by my pieces. I get a lot of young artists creating 3D and 2D art or styling their own outfits referencing my collections and tagging me – this connection via social media has let me know that there are people out there who truly understand what I’m trying to say and inspire me to keep going.”
Now that Zhang’s meticulously perfected puffer jackets are becoming legendary, will he shift the focus of his eponymous brand beyond outerwear?
“Creating a signature cut of a t-shirt or a hoodie, or a recurring detail of a pair of pants that can last for multiple seasons is really important,” Zhang said. “I build the foundations of my core pieces that allude to the same function and reference the relationship with the body that inspires my outerwear. I also touch on footwear to add to the layering and construction of my silhouettes. .”
One base piece at a time. But doesn’t it seem strange to you to offer a spring/summer collection mainly composed of the hottest clothes in the world?
“I always try to consider a range of fits for down jackets so that some exist as all-season pieces,” Zhang explained. “Especially in cities where the weather can be fickle, an all-weather down jacket – like one of my puffer jackets, for example – can be part of the wardrobe all year round.”
You heard it here first, folks: puffers forever.