London Fashion Week designer Huishan Zhang knows the importance of mentorship, crediting those who helped guide him early on with much of his success. It is because of this that he has decided to launch a new portfolio which explores the role of mentors and also highlights Asian-owned businesses, many of which are in need of more support.
“I am very lucky and fortunate to meet some great mentors in my career so far,” Zhang tells us. “One is LVMH’s Delphine Arnault who set up an award at Central Saint Martins when I was a student. She really believed in me at the beginning of my career – someone I will be forever grateful for – I spent my third year on placement at Dior in the haute couture atelier.”
Zhang’s experience being mentored by Arnault gave him the priceless access to a world that many young designers would kill for, and helped guide him in many ways when it came to finding his trademark style and learning the ins and outs of running a fashion business. Because of this, he wants to do the same for others.
“I have been very fortunate in my career and feel that it is my turn to give others an opportunity to help them with an insight and understanding of this industry,” he said. “We have always been supportive and inclusive and would like to make a pledge to continue this commitment.”
Of course, the timing is also important. The portfolio Zhang is launching, which is linked to this mentoring programme, is entitled ‘Lessons we learnt in lockdown’. It was created as a response to the pandemic and to help inspire people after months of being confined to our homes. This situation also makes it more important than ever for those just starting out in the fashion industry, who have not had the same face time or real-life experiences as they usually would.
“The last two years has been particularly difficult with less in-person interactions and I thought that it would be a good time to do something to help others who might need support in gaining confidence to graduate and at the start of their career.”
As part of this initiative, Zhang will be mentoring an Asian student from a UK university. He hopes to provide invaluable insight into the workings of a fashion brand, as well as providing access to key contacts to help with the university course and start their careers with as much knowledge and guidance as possible.
“I wanted to give back to the Asian community and show my support by giving a student this opportunity,” he said. “I wanted to help someone who might not have a way into the fashion industry the chance to start building their career so that they are in a strong position to graduate.”
“These past two years have been so challenging with remote learning and less dedicated time together – this would hopefully give them access to key knowledge, insight and contacts in the industry as well as hopefully building their confidence and supporting them in their final year.”
Zhang is also putting a spotlight on other Asian designers in his portfolio, which features interviews from a number of inspiring women in the industry, who speak at length about their mentorship experiences and their favourite Asian designers.
“We chose women that all had strong yet very different lives and personalities, and would wear the collection in a multitude of ways,” he says of the likes of Hikari Yokoyama, Linda Rodin, Djuna Bel, Ramya Giangola and many others, who appear in the portfolio, shot in Huishan Zhang designs.
“It really shows the collection through a variety of lenses and the true versatility of the brand. The interviews were an opportunity to hear what all of the women are doing in life at the moment, from new business ventures, to the new mothers juggling different projects or even training to be a pilot alongside their full-time job.”
The portfolio will also raise money and awareness for two organisations which are working towards supporting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the USA and East and South East Asian Britons in the UK who have been affected by a rise in hate crimes and racism.
The sale of two runway looks will go directly towards the AAPI Community Fund and Stop Asian Hate. You can read the portfolio in full here – and can donate to the organisations directly below.
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