UNconventional: Ding Yun Zhang
UNconventional by FTC is a series exploring creators, designers and artists expressing unique, thought-provoking perspectives of socio-cultural and global significance through their craft. These creators stray away from the conventions and norms of everyday ideas and give them a new meaning through their otherworldly creativity.
At only 25, Ding Yun Zhang boasts a following of over 80k on Instagram including big names like Sean Wotherspoon, Daniel Arsham, A$AP Ferg, Jerry Lorenzo, and many others. A graduate from the prestigious Central Saint Martins, Zhang made his big debut in the fashion world last year during London Fashion Week. His collection was launched alongside the infamous Yeezy foam runners and needless to say, Zhang’s popularity went through the roof after the show.
Born in Nei Mongol, China, Zhang grew up around Basketball and Sneakers, but since his family couldn't always buy him the newest Kobe or Jordan kicks, he would often go and take pictures of the shoes in order to capture every detail and eventually began sketching them out. It was then that he realised he had a skill and passion for the creative side and moved to Somerset in the UK, to study fine art.
His next big step was joining Central Saint Martins and the designer states that his time there forced him to push boundaries and creative limits, eventually creating an aesthetic of his own. Having always been drawn to streetwear, Zhang wanted to blur the line between Luxury fashion and Streetwear and at the end of his second year, the designer got in touch with Kanye West’s Yeezy label and ended up designing a few pieces for its season 4 drop.
A few months later Zhang had a meeting with Kanye himself, who went through Zhang’s portfolio and was absolutely floored. After that, Zhang was designing whatever Kanye wanted him to, gaining immense behind-the-scenes knowledge of designing apparel and shoes. While working at Yeezy, Zhang designed a number of popular silhouettes like the 700 Wave Runner and multiple basketball sneakers as well.
Describing his futuristic designs, Zhang believes that styles often emerge from the necessity for a sustainable way of living and his clothes, as a result, are heavily utilitarian. Apart from representing sustainability at their core, the designs are also inspired by the diverse ecosystem that people across the globe live in.
Zhang further elaborates the difference between the clothes designed and used for purely aesthetic reasons and clothes that are worn out of necessity. In financially weak countries fashion choices are made based on utility - the way people dress depends heavily on what kind of an environment they live in and what kind of work they do. As a result, his graduation project work took heavy inspiration from Jackie Nickerson’s book “Farm” that has portraits of workers in corporate plantations in Africa.
Zhang’s collection sports extremely oversized puffer jackets and pants, sleeveless vests, and hand-painted camouflage prints. Most of the material used in the manufacturing process is sustainable and in the future Zhang aims to develop his own types of bio-degradable nylon and waterproof fabrics.
Although the designer's plans of launching his own brand was slowed down because of the pandemic, he has still managed to bag a few collaborations. The most recent one was with Antoni Tudisco, labeled “Not In Paris”, which is second in a series of the bi-annual digital exhibition being held in place of Paris Men’s Fashion Week.
Zhang collaborated with the Italian-Filipino art director and showcased his oversized puffer jackets and Yeezy sneakers in utopian landscapes through 3D renders. The idea behind doing this was to emphasize that the brand could create much more buzz even without the traditional runway shows and expensive advertisement campaigns.
Zhang’s designs can be labeled futuristic because they bring climate change into the equation and his designs depict the kind of style we will have to adapt to in the future both in terms of aesthetics and materials.
Head over to the designers Instagram to get a closer look at his unconventional and extraordinary designs.