By Eeman Bandey
From memes to new platforms, influencers to climate change, the rate of growth in the past decade has been stressful to keep up with. Particularly for the younger generation, it’s left many feeling a little misguided. B.F.A. fashion design student Bo Zhang felt this shift strongly and draws on her navigation of urban youth culture as inspiration for her collection.
The Academy of Art University School of Fashion student primarily focuses on social identity: what we’re consuming, what that means in forming a young person’s positioning, and whether they challenge or reaffirm it. As a young designer herself, the result is a breath of fresh air.
Her debut collection features a line-up of button-down shirts, pants, skirts, and a coat, with reconstruction and plaid appearing constantly throughout. She looked towards streetwear, a movement she’s deeply engaged with, believing it to be a place where the values of her generation permeate. That influence is apparent in her collection. Her silhouettes are loose-fitting, and call out to be different. They simultaneously resemble hand-me-downs, exuding coolness and a certain tough-guy attitude, whilst hinting at vulnerability through layering. The garments are effortless, relaxed, and use casual fabrics like colorful cotton or jersey.
Zhang also gravitated towards references from rap music. She drew from the image of folding chairs in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, found in the music video of the rapper Juice WRLD’s “Lean Wit Me.” At one point, she collaged images of the chairs on top of a mannequin, building on different perspectives to find new ideas.
This idea of experimentation is a recurring theme in Zhang’s creative process, and she often looked to music and videography to develop silhouettes before carefully reconstructing them. From there, she added elements such as harnesses and functional pockets. Alongside her palette of primary colors and touches of grey, the result is well-made garments that are utilitarian and allow for movement.
The lack of guidance and structure has translated into an honest dialogue on youth culture, highlighting a desire to be unique and unapologetically themselves. Zhang’s observation on the topic has manifested into a cohesive collection that not only pays homage to urban culture but truly represents its values.