Yi Zhou: From the screen to the canvas of garments

by Danielle Demetriou

“Hollowness” is not a word that often springs to mind in the context of a luxury fashion item. For the Shanghai-based multimedia artist Yi Zhou, however, this was the starting point for her Each x Other fashion collection.

Inspired by a 3-D animation she created highlighting the rise of the virtual over the tangible, the garments range from a deep dyed kimono overcoat with a fur collar to intricately patterned digital prints on silk scarves and shirts.

How did you get involved in this project?

When the brand approached me and asked me to submit a print for them as inspiration to work on a collection devoted to my work, I suggested giving them an existing 3-D animation of mine entitled “Unexpected Hero.”

How do you define Each x Other?

It pays homage to the work of contemporary artists by using a select number of unisex pieces as raw blank canvases onto which works of art can be reproduced. This time, they did a collection dedicated to my “Unexpected Hero”. I am an artist; I don’t see the difference between creating my artworks and conceiving something for fashion or design or jewelry. I do all with the same passion and same approach.

What is the design concept behind the fashion pieces in your collection?

The collection is titled “Hollowness” for two reasons. First, it’s just an illusion because the clothes are a result of a projection of virtual imageries onto fabrics. Second, it reflects the hollowness of our time, the fast-forward social-media era that is erasing the realness and tangible particles of our lives. For example, the crisis of printed media, the disappearing of CDs, the convergence of all in one.

How would you define the boundaries between fashion and art?

There are new rules in a changing art world. There are no longer rules such as museum, gallery or foundation walls being boundaries for displaying art. Everything, everywhere is a platform for art. We are converging toward an omni art world. Fashion can be a phenomenon of art, especially between the multimedia art field, which mixes art forms. Art is also the ultimate luxury. Nowadays art and fashion are very close to each other. I think it represents the revolution between fashion and art.

How different is designing an item of clothing compared to creating more conventional “art”?

As an artist, I feel very honored that there is a clothing brand producing a collection line dedicated to my work. When I create artworks or anything else, I think it’s the same process for me. I devote my thoughts and all invisible senses on it to express the best feeling and meanings.

Is there a common thread that runs through your works?

There is no specific foundation for my creative works. Everything from life can be a source of inspiration, such as a dream, architecture or a pineapple etc. For example, my 3-D animation work “The Ear” came from a fleeting thought when I walked around on the bridge in New York.

How does Tokyo compare to Shanghai in terms of creativity?

Tokyo is an inspirational place for design, with its love for nature, its people and food. Japan has a special vibration that other cities don’t have — it’s a mixture of quietness and excitement all in one.