Who Is Rui Zhou?
Since Rui Zhou graduated Parsons last year, her sheer, amorphous bodysuits have graced many a glossy magazine cover, even catching the eye of Solange, who wore a nude creation for “Way to the Show”—and soon, they’re going to hit the mass market.
Follow Christina on Twitter here
The diaphanous bodysuits, which perhaps reveal more than they conceal, are constructed from a sheer fabric she hand-weaves, stretched across a figure, and tenuously held together by delicate pearls. The patterns create wave-like movements, and their soft, muted colors, combined with the pearls—sometimes used individually, sometimes strung together—results in a thalassic form, like something of a mythological underwater creature. The sea is a frequent source of inspiration for Zhou; “I really love rainy days, or the sea, I’m really into the water,” she says. “Sometimes I bring those feelings into my collection.”
For the pearls, the inspiration is more maternal. “Pearl, for me, means ‘mother’,” she says. Her original concept for the design was rooted in her family, exploring the relationship between her mother, sister and herself. “My mom and sister influenced me and my life, so I want to express this intimate relationship through the body. The connection is really tight, but it still has distance, so I use fabric on the body to show that.”
“It’s quite delicate, so it really looks like the second skin,” she adds. “I’m really obsessed with skin because I feel like skin is the only boundary, so I really want to create garments as a second skin.”
Zhou credits her upbringing (which she describes as a small city in China “surrounded by mountains and trees”) with her interest in Zen Buddhism and wabi-sabi. “I’m quite interested in the aesthetic,” she says. “I’m really into minimalism and poetic things. My pieces are [delicate], but it’s another way to show the beauty of women.”
Before creating the filamented bodysuit for which she’s now known, Zhou experimented with many forms and ways to play with the body. Early prototypes included thinly-linked pieces of fabric draped over mannequins with extra padding in unusual places, reshaping the body to create unusual silhouettes. When viewing images of the draped pieces, Rei Kawakubo’s seminal “Dress Meets Body, Body Meets Dress” comes to mind; Zhou had stumbled upon the collection while researching reference imagery to help flesh out her concept. “I learned something from her idea, and I created my own style,” says Zhou. “She broke the regular figure and reconstructed a new body figure. I think that is a really genius idea.”
Discarding the lumps and bumps, Zhou focused her graduate collection on the bodysuit, adding individual sleeves and stockings, some fitted with wires to hold up cylindrical shapes, a nod to her earlier desire to morph the human form. Each piece is handmade and one of a kind, though she plans to expand into ready-to-wear and will be launching an online store soon. “I want to make intimate pieces but I don’t want to limit my brand,” she says. “I definitely will do some pieces like skirts or dresses, something to mix with my bodysuits so it looks like a ready-to-wear collection.” She’s also found a way to recreate some of the bodysuits en masse, though without the strands held by pearls, which are impossible to achieve without working by hand.
How to style such pieces (or wear them on the street) is still up to debate. While a gossamer creation might be perfect for the runway or for fashion photography, the sheer sheerness of the garments will pose an interesting obstacle to those who want to adorn the style without exposing themselves completely. But the interest is high, and Zhou has a plan. As for when precisely her online store will launch, she can’t say, but it’ll be soon; until then, street style enthusiasts will have to dream.