Supernatural, Extraterrestrial & Co - Made on another planet. Xander Zhou’s S/S 18 sci-fi fantasy returned for A/W 18. This season, the office-cum-spaceship transported us into Zhou’s Far East future.
The show took place in The Bargehouse at the OXO Tower, a cavernous space with chilly, speckled concrete that added to Zhou’s dystopian space-age aesthetic. As too, did the return of Zhou’s workwear silhouettes. Here, wide shoulders, lapels and ties were slapped and pinched with Zhou’s 'Supernatural, Extraterrestrial & Co' insignia - name tags, badges, and pocket stamps alike.
But was this a trip to the space-age future or was it a rewind to Zhou’s past? Nods to Zhou’s Chinese heritage appeared throughout the collection in the form of deliciously decadent embroidered Chinese tokens, Kung Fu suits, a Pipa remix overhead and conical hats and cape. The press notes read 'There is a simple means by which to test time: deconstruct nostalgia.' It seems even in a futuristic sci-fi narrative, you can’t look forward without glancing back. And why not? Those Chinese emblems; dragons, mandarin collars and silk knots, often prevalent within Zhou’s work, looked exceptional against his utilitarian stylings.
Zhou was the first Chinese designer to show at London Fashion Week and these flashbacks to his heritage are a reminder that he is at the forefront of China’s menswear talent. In fact, this collection was something of a 'greatest hits' show. Not just because Zhou was feeling nostalgic, but because there were cherry-picked accents from past collections - vests, long leather capes, broad shoulders and Chinese-inspired decorative detailing to name a few. His recognisable sharp silhouettes were married with Chinese identity - blazer was re-embellished with silk knot buttons, wide silk ties were given a swoosh of Chinese calligraphy, pea-coats were fitted with, not buttons, but an interlocking oversized Ying Yang.
The accessories throughout were both a luxurious and fun addition to Zhou’s extra-terrestrial story-telling. Alien-like sunglasses with frame-less sharp triangular lenses were given a Beijing twist with silver dragon handle - a look that had iPhones popping up from the back row like meerkats. Loafers in two-tones of Kerry green, silver and black will suit the businessman who longs to be a bit more Barbarella. Giant wooden fans were clasped by tightly leather gloved hands - a delightful clashing of texture. Opulent fur stoles were strapped into blazer and jacket across the chest - for the floating spaceman who still wants to accessorise.
Imagery of dragons and tigers were widespread throughout the collection but were particularly captivating on the final looks. Kitted out with bamboo hats, fans and giant clawed feet - models were leather-clad in painted tiger print robes, some with veils falling from their headwear. Perhaps this was Zhou’s nod to a final bridal look? Or perhaps an enticing frivolity amongst the pointed lines and structured shapes. Regardless, these dragons and tigers - symbols of power and wealth in Chinese culture - combined with power shoulders, slick leathers, rich furs and royal tones, packed an impressively high-powered punch for A/W 18.