Zhongshu Zhang – Pierrot in Nature
Has an overwhelmingly fast-fashion, consumerism-driven fashion industry effectively blunted the means of resisting conformity through style? Where subcultural signs and styles have been co-opted by the corporate mainstream, what does rebelliousness even look like these days?
MA Fashion student, Zhongshu Zhang, proposes that a trend towards conservatism in homogenous fashion styles may be one way of producing Foucauldian “docile bodies” in late Capitalist society, to the cost of the reification and at the deprivation of individuality.
Pierrot in Office uses the classical image of Pierrot the clown to serve as a maverick figure who disrupts monotony and the dulling effect of routine. In this project, the office is the chosen space best epitomising the formality associated with the daily grind. Zhang makes a comparison between her juxtaposition of subversive energy and workplace conventions in Pierrot in Office, and collections by duo Viktor & Rolf, whose category-blurring signature designs often incorporate sculpture and painting.
For Zhang, the use of typically feminine features, an avant-garde aesthetic, and the reform of office-wear are leading concepts in her collection. Comprising of ten sets of looks, the series plays with asymmetry, fabric manipulation (with a preference for chiffon, velvet, fusion fabric), loose cutting, tassels, icon design, to cultivate a strong and distinctive style which can be personalised by the wearer.
Referencing key ideas from critical and cultural theory (Dick Hebdige, Stuart Hall, Pierre Bourdieu et al), Pierrot in Office draws from an eclectic base of theoretical research and references, citing a history of ‘clowning’ and other performances of comedic ‘non-seriousness’ as having the power to challenge dominant narratives around the body, class, gender and sexuality. From the pathos and playful ‘failure’ of Tony Hancock’s humour in the film The Rebel, to the central use of the Pierrot image, the project drives home not only the Bourdieuian observation that so many markers of identity are ‘read off the body’, but that cultural taste and social class are intrinsically linked. Pitched at such a high level of sociological and philosophical inquiry, Zhang’s collection uses humour and satire as expressions of individuality loaded with the capability to subvert social norms.