Sankuanz, one of China’s most prolific fashion labels, has joined forces with German sportswear giant Puma to launch a capsule collection. The eclectic Spring/Summer collection themed “Kill the wall”, is articulated through a mix of contemporary art with a rebellious undertone expressed in classic sportswear. The 14-piece collection, headed by Shangguan Zhe, founder of Sankuanz, is composed of new and traditional patterns, unconventional prints and bright logo typefaces. These latest offerings by Puma and Sankuanz offer a refreshing take on contemporary streetwear.
The much-anticipated release, which launches 2 February, includes custom edition footwear and apparel in the Cali, Cell, Eudura, RS-X and Thunder silhouettes. These are available in different shades of neutral earth tones, and are decked out with flashes of vibrant neon pop and over-exaggerated soles for a tougher look. We caught up with the 35-year-old designer to talk about Puma and Sankuanz’s new project, as well as his thoughts on collaborating with brands, and breaking into the global fashion scene.
AM: How did you go from a visual communication and advertising specialist to designing clothes?
Zhe: It started with me learning how to draw during my university days. From there, I experimented with other mediums and platforms where I could express myself in different ways such as advertising and fashion design. Whether it’s 2D drawings, visual communication, art, fashion design or even music, I find that each is a platform for self-expression, and that has culminated in the best way for me to express myself creatively.
AM: What led you to collaborate with Puma?
Zhe: I have been paying attention to the brand and its impressive collaborations with different designers over the years, and it intrigued me. So, when Puma China approached me with the idea, I was interested. And I said yes! Shortly after, the Puma global team got in touch with me.
AM: Were you given free rein on creativity in this venture by Puma and Sankuanz? Or were there limitations and challenges to what you could do?
Zhe: Yes, I was given the freedom to be creative with my designs. For this collaboration by Puma and Sankuanz, I wanted to explore ways to fuse the signature Sankuanz elements together with Puma’s brand. That became a challenge for me initially. So eventually, we decided to go the classic way on the design – from the shoes to the packaging.
AM: Brand collaborations are so prevalent these days. Do you think this trend will cool down soon, or will it become more popular?
Zhe: I think brand collaborations are a positive thing for the scene, as long as it is an authentic collaboration where new or interesting products are created, and not a collaboration simply built on commercial benefits. Collaboration is also a good thing especially when independent or smaller labels come together with global brands. Most of the time, these designers may have very good ideas but a lack of resources to make them happen. So, it can be a good thing when the global brands and big players are able to bring these ideas to life with their resources.
AM: Are there any challenges breaking into the global market for a Chinese fashion designer and a Chinese label? Are there any stereotypes being a Chinese designer and Chinese label?
Zhe: I don’t think the stereotype applies to Chinese designers only. There is a certain stereotype that is attached to designers in Asia, even the Japanese designers or labels — some of which are popular here in Asia. However, there may also be other attributing factors such as the language and culture barrier, or perhaps the work wasn’t good enough or considered cutting edge to the European markets.
For the past few years, the China economy has improved and become more exposed to global influences. With the China market and audience more globalised, perhaps that is why the work created now may be more relevant and welcomed by the European markets.
Personally, I have not come across any incidents of stereotypes or bias just because I am a Chinese designer. When I was in Europe, it didn’t matter whether you were from Africa or Asia. What mattered more were the products and work you were showing.
AM: Do you feel pressured thinking about creating the next collection?
Zhe: Yes of course, in fact, the pressure can be quite heavy at times. It is part and parcel of how this industry works, and it is one of the rules of the game. However, I also feel that this can work as a positive energy that motivates me to outdo myself and produce a better collection.