XU ZHI SS19 London Fashion Week

In partnership with both Swarovski and JD.com, the buzzy Central Saint Martins graduate Xuzhi Chen presented her SS19 womenswear collection in a striking neo-Gothic mansion to an audience hungry to see what’s next from the LVMH Prize and BOF500 affiliated brand.This season, the designer took unlikely and unfamiliar inspiration from the great 19th century poet Emily Dickinson; in particular, the duality of her character and her work. Each look was presented as a pair, one in white and one bursting with colour, echoing the mysterious myth of the poet’s all-white wardrobe after the death of her father, as well as the contrast and imbalance that so often occurs within her poems.

Dickinson was thought to be passionate and romantic at heart, hence the collection’s distinctly rich and feminine feel. Her dedication to nature and her ‘family’ of plants, saw Xu Zhi incorporate pressed flower embroidery on some pieces. The prolific poet was known for her strength and this, too, was reflected in the structural and sculptural accessories; jewellery designed by Annie Costello Brown.

Key looks from the presentation included a fresh take on the pantsuit- long white feathered tassels hung from a risqué tuxedo blazer paired with extreme wide leg trousers, which caressed the mahogany floors of the ancient building. Other highlights were a flamingo pink gown, a silk tailored two-piece in dusky rose, and a crisp white lab coat worn over bare skin. Each model wore a striking bold red lip and slick, straight hair, lit only by the natural sunlight through intricate stained glass windows.

Unlike previous Xu Zhi collections –such as last season where the brand explored female empowerment through serious aesthetics –SS19 saw Chen embrace a lighter, more optimistic side of life, whilst still paying due respects to an arguably feminist icon. As reflected by the emerging label’s vast array of prestigious stockists and editorial features, Xu Zhi is a firm favourite and her next rich, visual narrative is always eagerly anticipated.

By Ruth MacGilp.