My Interview with Behind the Scenes NYC

We talked to Zhuorui Fu, founder of ZF Collection to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey, her continuously growing collection based on sustainability and her short and long term plans!

Read my interview about Zhuorui Fu Collection with Behind the Scenes NYC here.

Behind the Scenes NYC Logo

We talked to Zhuorui Fu, founder of ZF Collection to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey, her continuously growing collection based on sustainability and her short and long term plans!

Take a look below:


Tell us a bit about you, where you’re from, your back ground, what you worked with? How you ended up in NYC?

My name is Zhu. I am a Chinese girl born and raised in Shenzhen, a young mega metropole of my age and the technological hub of the East, until I was 17. Before that, I exchanged to California, New York, and Finland.

From 17 onwards, I went to school at St. Andrews, which is the alma mater of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Because my Bachelor’s Degree was a joint-degree, I went to William & Mary in Virginia for two years. I got two diplomas from two schools within four years.

After that, I also went to UPenn for a Master’s Program. In between, I studied in France and went travelling, volunteering, studying in many countries for quite a bit.

I technically came to NYC before I went to University. Not the typical obedient student and born an urbanite, I was never into coursework and was always in the mega cities, London, New York, and Paris, when I was in school in Scotland, Virginia, and Philadelphia.

Being an ‘outsider’ entrepreneur, how has your journey in NYC been and what are the biggest challenges you find?

Since I came to NYC a while ago, NYC scenes were not unfamiliar to me. The entirety of my life is spent in the mega cities, so I am used to the fast-pace, sharpness, internationality, pollution, rudeness, in New York. It helped refine my edges and that coolness as a millennial working in a creative environment. Nevertheless, since I studied in Europe and was soaked in an intelligentsia environment, my taste tends to be more diverse.

NYC has been a blessing. In NY, I was always connecting with people I met from my schools, projects, people in the cafés, etc. Not all of my projects work out and many of them died, but whenever I want to work on something, NYC gives me hopes and resources.

The biggest challenge is surely the price. When I was in school, I had family’s supports. That was one of the major reasons I could afford a good education. After school, I had to rely on myself. NYC price is abnormal for a graduate unless he or she is working on a corporate job. For penniless entrepreneur, it is very difficult to afford anything in NY.

Shop Ladies and Gents ZF Collection Keychains

What’s ZFC about? How do you apply sustainability to your brand and your mission?

Zhuorui Fu Collection is a simple and classy style curation. It’s a haute-couture house whose elegant traditions married millennial attitude. We fit bespoke designs, 100% handmade and hand-stitched in France. It’s haute-couture, with products created by customization and small batches each cycle and never again, using vachette, the calfskin, from Italy.

ZFC is an ethical slow fashion brand. I do not feel comfortable using alligator skin or something. It champions a good style and taste, not necessarily fashion, by doing and having good investment pieces, to create that millennial timeless being.

I am a vegetarian and practice yoga since I was 14. Mother Nature, fair treating to people, are all very important to me and the brand.

Specifically, how ZFC carries out the mission, it came from below pillars.

First, ZFC only uses recyclable and perishable materials, with exceptions of collaborations with Zero Waste Daniel, who has already recycled parts of the synthetic wastes. I am not a big fan of plastics despite transparent plastics have been quite fashionable lately. We use leathers called vachette, which is the calfskin of cattle that is slaughtered as meat. Leather, paper boxes, cottons are the majority of the materials we. They are long-lasting, but they are naturally perishable if buried in soils.

Second, I knew my maker partner Roberto when I was studying French, in Nice. In fact, I lived right above his atelier. He dyed everything with homemade natural coloring. There are no chemical dyes that go into water and contaminate water, like many suppliers do when they make mass-produced garments.

Third, Roberto makes everything and he is well paid.

Lastly, fashion fades, style does not, as Yves Saint Laurent said: “Having a distinctive and cultivated style is already remarkably sustainable”.

Shop Ladies and Gents ZF Collection Lou Bag

How do you see ZFC fit into NYC’s fashion scene?

It fills in the haute-couture for young people, and does not chase the ever-changing trend.

NY’s fashion is very diverse. You can find all range of fashion because this is the ultimate fashion heaven. Nevertheless, NY’s fashion scene came to prominence only after war, when the American apparels gradually took European style to the mass, with the help of big department stores’ orders. In another word, NYC’s fashion can be very modern and street-culture inspired. NYC is a young city with almost 70% of the population under 45.

My line is a classic haute-couture line that calls for multidimensional awareness of style, through reading, traveling, and loving. It is not necessarily luxurious, but it is heavier in value. It fits with NY’s history of high fashion and dense art scene. They are also sustainable pieces that New Yorkers like. It does not fit into the wasteful part, superficial aspect, and the pursuit of forever new, of NYC culture and NYC fashion.

For me, cherishing what we carefully purchased, created, and loved is important. If this goes in another route from the NY mainstream, I am fine to not follow the crowd.

Nevertheless, the line combines my taste, the one of a globally educated millennial, and the Franco-Italian traditions of Roberto. My take on the styling and details of ZFC comes from our current epoch. They are classy and traditional by looks, but inherently cool.

What are your top 3 styling tips for New Yorkers?

Colourful and simple accessories to suit the permanent black garments.

Wear the worldly cultures proudly on ourselves. New Yorkers tend to have history and roots besides NY. Those pieces from elsewhere are great additions to the big NY style and they are what make us different!

Work less, chase less, enjoy life, read a book, listen to music, appreciate arts, cherish the finiteness of life in the material cornucopia. Manners and passions are the ultimate fashion.

Shop Ladies and Gents ZF Collection Details Atelier

Which is your bestseller item?

Val. This is a small cross-body coming in a very irreplaceable cute shape. Female customers like this bag a lot. It can host a book or a water bottle.

Vincent the wallet, Arcobaleno bracelets, and L’Animal, the endangered animals-inspired keychains are also popular for the lower price points, easy look, and cute stories.

Where can people find ZFC, besides online? You mentioned about a few pop-up stores in NY – which/where are they?

We do more among acquaintance circle, for many customers want certain parts to be customized. In addition, we also do online, but definitely trying to do more. We put on events that are, for now, seasonal. For example, we had partnership with Camaraderie in NYC and Persian Women in Tech.

We do high-profile events, which are in talks and will be updated momentarily. We look to do more collaborations and be taken into concept stores, businesses, or even retailers at small batches.

What are your upcoming plans for the brand? Collaborations?

First, I want more people to know about the brand and our sales need to come up. We look to more collaborations with local businesses that have physical stores and great concepts.

Second, I do look to do more lines for the brand. Now we focus on accessories, but Zhuorui Fu Collection is a millennial curation about elegance and style, not a bag brand. I want to introduce maybe ready-to-wear, maybe contemporary lines, that fit into the pronounced aesthetics and ethical believes. Or books, or classes, or yoga, or something that compliment customers’ taste and make them happy. I may also want to explore more topics that have always perplexed me, life, death, balance, etc.

Third, I would love to have pieces that challenge the status quo. For example, the Made in China image. I have seen great designer and makers in China. Made in China has a bad connotation because many products are massively produced at a high environment cost. However, it does not mean for all the products. I know amazing haute-couture designs that have supplied the emperors or have been handmade the same way for hundreds of years with passions and a supreme quality. I would want to do that.

Lastly, I want to contribute to gender parity. Most of the fashion lines, whether womenswear or menswear, are led and owned by men, while most of the entry jobs in fashion are filled by women. I will be very happy to do menswear and figure out ways to bring sustainability into this.

Can you tell about the collaboration with Zero Waste Daniel? We are huge fans and did a great interview with him a while back.

Yes, Daniel is great. There was a point I lived in Williamsburg right next to Daniel’s store. I walked pass his store multiple times and had always been inspired by the mysteriously awesome designs from the outside. One day I decided to walk in and was immediately greeted by warm reception of the staff beside the sewing machine. Fewer things at a sustainable way have always been a belief of mine. He makes clothes from scraps, which is just a good innovation itself. The pieces look very Brooklyn chic.

I approached him and asked him if he would want to collaborate. We sat down and he told me his story, of how he started at fairs selling a few pieces. He said it was “very hard” at the beginning. After years, he now made it into a beautiful store.

In New York, you can always find overnight success stories of some hotshot designers, but most of the people don’t have their businesses like this. In fact, doing business from scratch when you have limited resources is very difficult. People just don’t really care about you or your products. I was just beginning my business and my business looked very dodgy when I met him. He was very happy to help and designed our brand three exclusively fitted pieces in red, blue, and grey, for the passions, sorrows, and neutrality of a typical start-up story, I guess.

No need to say, Daniel is a super sweetheart and has great smile.

Zhu is the founder of Zhuorui Fu Collection, a simple and classy style curation based in New York, London, and Paris. ZFC makes bespoke, sustainable, and chic haute-couture pieces 100% handmade in France and USA.

www.zhuoruifucollection.com

IN CURATION OF TIME AND FASHION

Read the original post on Lawo Blog.

Fashion became a word of inspiration only after 1800s, as a part of the desire to express personalities, which has long lurched inside of our heart chamber. Even then, fashion limited its feet around the golden courts of royalties and upper-class. Distinction of class has created the demand for mastery of colour and fabrics, in an extension of cultures, paintings, music that have permeated the birth of aristocracies.

In contrast, the exploration of fabrics is a more familiarised matter. China has silk for thousands of years in trade. America went in war for cottons. Regardless, the combination of creativity and fabrics came after the Great War, when the new socialites played further the magic of les grands couturiers, dressers in French.

Now, fashion is one of the buzz words leading publication taglines, and people have never been so fixated on the details of the teeny-weeny stitching line on the dresses of a famous star or blogger. We are a generation that wears our qualities on appearances, as if the variation of eyes nose and mouth are not enough to tell the difference apart.

However, are the traits only distinctive by garments? Shouldn’t a way the person talks, the manners the person holds, through careful and yearlong cultivation, be the subtle, inexplicable, and everlasting effects a person leave to public?

Famous stylish heavyweights in history, Jackie O., Marilyn Monroe, Simone de Beauvoir, to name a few, have achieved their permanency in fashion not through a mere adaptation of outer wears, but also the eloquence, time spent during their living and career, and value to navigate a course of history. One can easily find an audio or interview of the names on YouTube, and one can see how the individual voice of one person speaks a world apart – seductive as Jackie O., soft-spoken as Monroe, sharp as de Beauvoir.

One may say, today’s fashion focuses on diversity. A man or woman can be as free as he or she wants, whether it is ghetto, hipster, elegant, expensive, explosive, gothic, or anything, he or she has the blessing from democracy, liberty, and innate insouciance to pursuit wildly. There is no one set of conformity or one standard of values. Nevertheless, there are a bundle of terms still making humans beautiful: efficiency, fairness, righteousness, creativity, nature, etc. One brand only explores one aspect of one human, yet one invested story can be passed down to generations, and through this jointly understood value, we learn to be humans, to sustain ourselves, to walk pass the struggle formers have been, and to be the truly stylish. Style is made by tears, sweats, errs, laughter, all the traces the wrinkles on our skin, not just a replaceable garment made today or tomorrow.

Maybe it isn’t the story to everyone, but when thousands of years ago, Plato walked pass a flea market, he sighed, “There are so many things I do not need!” Why would he need ornaments, when his stylish thought already stunned generations?

 

Inspired by the thinking above, Zhuorui Fu Collection, a simple and classy style curation based in New York, London, and Paris. The focus is elegance and timelessness, with 100% handmade and hand-stitched bespoke designs from France and USA in Italian cruelty-free leather. You can view more on zhuoruifucollection.com or follow Instagram: zhuoruifucollection

Zhuorui Fu, a soft-spoken strong girl and an outsider fashion entrepreneur. Curated her simple classy style from intellectual pursuit and being different. She went to St Andrews, the alma-mater of Duch and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Mary, and UPenn. Literature, culture, and adventures are key elements of her life. She is of Chinese origin and trilingual in English, Chinese, and French. Tibet, Mongol, Indian, and Persian cultures have influenced her. She is beyond grateful to see sunlight every morning and be alive.

Follow her on Instagram: zhuorui_fu

My Interview for Weiss Tech House: Founder of the Week

This month’s #FOTW is a special edition! Hear first hand from Zhuorui Fu, a current student at Penn who has created a recipe sharing platform.

Read the original about Recipicious on Weiss Tech House.

Capture d_écran 2018-08-13 à 14.05.51

This month’s #FOTW is a special edition! Hear first hand from Zhuorui Fu, a current student at Penn who has created a recipe sharing platform.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself (Name, school, major).

Name: Zhuorui Fu
School: SAS
Major: Behavioural Science & Decision-Making

 

What is your start-up?

Recipicious is a recipe-sharing community for pro food-lovers and cooks to help them find out how to cook unforgettable dishes from their favourite restaurants. Pro users can upload their version or interpretation of a recipe, and modify the recipes according to a double-vote & comment system. Aggregating wisdom of the professional crowd, Recipicious finds the recipe that’s closest to the restaurant’s original. Recipicious is restaurant based and location based. It links the virtual experience of viewing the recipe to the actual location or cooking experience.

 

What inspired Recipicious?

My mum really likes cooking. She went home and often tinkered how to make a specific dish from her favourite restaurant at home, too. (Recipicious comes from this concept, although now it is quite different from just replicating restaurants’ recipes. At a high level, it meant to unite the English-speaking recipe world, as the recipe-sharing sites are quite scattered apart now.)

 

What advancements have you seen with your platform?

We sent out surveys and obtained 30 interests, and 20 people left their email address for us up keep them updated. We made changes to the double-vote system and identified competitors according to the comments potential users left us. We have the full UX design, and now we are applying for funds to support us to hire a front-end engineer to code the prototype per our instruction. Meanwhile, we are taking the time to look for a front-end engineer equity business partner. (My tech co-founder is a back-end & UX engineer).

 

What challenges have you faced in the development of your product?

Coding the product.

 

How has Penn helped you succeed in your entrepreneurial venture?

Through my engagement with Wharton and Wharton entrepreneurial activities in general, I obtained kind helps & advice from Wharton angel invesotrs, interested students, and resources from entrepreneurial centre.

 

What advice do you have for young entreprenuers?

Keep on. Persistence. Tweading your products.

 

Zhuorui Fu is the founder of Recipicious, viewable on recipiciousapp.com

 

A Guide to Esfahan, Iran

My Guest Blog for Solo Female Traveler Network: A Guide to Esfahan, Iran

Read the original of my guest blog on Solo Female Traveler.

 

City Guide

Nearest Airports

Tehran International Airport, Isfahan International Airport, Shiraz International Airport

 

Brief history of city

Esfahan (in Persian pronunciation, or Isfahan in English), “half of the world”, is an important industrial city of Iran. It has beautiful architectures and art preservations, built and made from the great Persian emperor Abbas I’s time. An industrial city, the city sees sunshine most of the time. Temperature gap of day and night is big as Esfahan is a desert city located down Zagros mountain. However, with the Zagros landscape, it is easy to get away to natural landscapes from Esfahan as well. It is a vibrant Middle Eastern metropole with plenty of food, entertainment options of modern cafes, traditional mosques, private nightclubs and parties, and formal praying, etc. No matter you are the history hunter, or just the fun hunter looking for exotic entertainment options, Esfahan is the place to be.

 

Solo female traveler friendliness rating 1-10

9. Iranians are renowned for being extremely friendly. Although being a beautiful woman alone, especially if you are Asian, you may be looked at or greeted at from random men (and women) often, but those greetings are mostly out of curiosity of social customs, despite they may sound racist or annoying from the ears of Western visitors.

Good for SFT, honeymoon.

Solo female traveler safety rating 1-10

10. It is one of the safest countries in the Middle East. It is very safe. Even walking on the street alone after midnight as a single female is safe (in the city centre).

Crime rate is near to zero, and no targeted crime. Although, watch out being ripped off at certain dodgy places. However, since the whole income level is low in Western standard, even a rip-off is an average price for Western visitors.

Public transport rating 1-10

7. Inter-city transportation relies heavily on luxurious buses. Trains and metros are limited and tend to be cumbersome. In Esfahan city, it is advisable to take a taxi (from the hotel), and walk. Locals rely heavily on cars. Taxi can be a rip-off unless taken from your hotel. Walk can also be a good option to enjoy the view. Flights are also good options to travel to other cities.

Top five-ten experiences

  1. Nashe Jahan Square (Imam Square)

  2. Shi-o-she Bridge

  3. Kaju Bridge

  4. Vank Church

  5. Armenian Quarter / Jolfa (the nightlife quarter)

Best five restaurants

  1. Shazard (Splurge choice)

  2. Toranj (Splurge choice)

  3. Safavid Traditional House

  4. Hermes Café (awful wifi)

  5. Mustache Café (only for drinking amazing tea and coffee, limited food options, no wifi)

(Persian food is very meat-heavy, so beware, vegetarians. You won’t go hungry, but the food is a large part of the culture.)

Nightlife

  1. Ani Café (amazing wifi, the first coffee shop of Esfahan)

Shopping

Persian scarves in Jolfa area or the big bazaar in Nashe Jahan Square

Best three hostels

Rag Rug (Instagram: Ragrughostel)

New and millennial hostel opened by a great man. Modern hostel with a Persian touch and international friends and a cool vibe.

Contact: Sahand Tabatabaie (+98 9131182707, sahandtabatabaie@gmail.com)

Best mid-range hotel(s)

Viana Hotel (Instagram: viana_hotel)

$40 per night, awesome service, highly recommended. They take care of everything for you. Fast responses.

Contact: +98 (31) 32360100, info@viana-hotel.com)

Best luxury hotel(s)

Abbasi Hotel (Personally I have no experiences, because for $100 or plus per night, I’d rather stay with Rag Rug or Viana or home stay, which are way cheaper with way better local experiences)

Best home stay(s)

Amin Barkhodari (https://www.facebook.com/groups/291501688012602/)

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/amin.barkhordari.1

A super welcoming guy, who offered me many helpful tips. Although I did not have time to meet him in the end, but his warm messages gave me tremendous aides.

Do you tip? When? How much?

No. It is not a tip country.

Outlets/energy

European round-point plugs.

Average daily spend excluding accommodation and sample daily budget

Apart from accommodation, eating or going around, 10-20 euros are more than sufficient for your day. Normally, 5-10 euros for a day will make you live like a queen.

Currency

The most important thing to know about money in Iran is that visa doesn’t work anywhere and there is a ban on American companies. You need to bring ALL of your money in cash to Iran and exchange it when you’re there. They do exchange it everywhere though, hotels, visitor centers, etc,  but there is no exchange at the airport. Most people use their hotels to arrange everything.

Rial and Tohman are the local currencies. Be aware that local prices are often quoted in Tohman, which is -10x of Rial. However, Iranian currency can be messy for a visitor to understand. Spending more days in Iran will help you understand the price level, currency nuances, and the value of your bills.

Health/vaccines

No vaccine needed in a normal situation. However, please refer to your embassy’s website for further instruction. Normally, the country is way safer than the embassy warning, esp from English-speaking Western countries due to political standings.

Safety tips

Iran is super safe just be normal. Girls, please wear long pants and long dresses. Short dresses even with boots can be bizarre on the street. Better to cover your hairs but don’t worry if your hijabs fall of your hair. Follow the simple rule of not flaunting wealth, overly exposing curves, or being excessively responding (to the catcalls of men on the street). Live in the city centre. Ask your hotels for everything. They are the best helpers and friends to you (:

Esfahan Iran

  • Cars race on the street, so be aware of this Iranian custom! Locals cross streets normally but the fast-coming cars can seem intimidating when you first try to cross streets.

  • Locals love to invite foreigners for food or tea. You can take them up on it if you want!

  • Instagram is widely used in Iran, so the best way to stay in touch with your new Iranian friends is through Instagram

  • You need to use VPNs to get over Iranian internet. Express VPN is great.

  • It is the best to get a local SIM card for the fast internet with a VPN.

  • Before you go, join the Facebook group of “See You in Iran” and you will be showered with local help and tips

  • Be relaxed. It is one of the most beautiful, exotic, and safest countries to visit.

  • Feel free to DM / contact me on Instagram: Zhuorui_fu or YouTube: Zhuorui Fu if you have more questions!

Be sure to follow Zhu!

Instagram: @Zhuorui_fu

YouTube: Zhuorui Fu

 

5 Picture in the Pink Mosque, Shiraz.

Poetry in Pole-Dancing: A Shenzhen Burlesque Dancer’s Journey

A Shenzhen native, burlesque dancer Zixy pursued a degree in Fine Arts at the Institute of Chicago and there gained experience as a pole dancer, a career choice rarely seen among Chinese students overseas. Years later, she’s positioned herself at the center of the world burlesque dancing scene: New York City. Her journey has had its ups and downs but in the end, she’s discovered poetry in her work as a pole dancer. Here’s the account of her lyrical journey from Shenzhen to New York.

Tell me about some of your formative experiences in Shenzhen.
Besides studying in a liberal environment [at Shenzhen Middle School], I also started mingling with adults and people in the real world when I was in high school. I moved out with a classmate… into a studio apartment, so we had our own space and own lives outside of school.

How did you get into the art of burlesque? 
I did Chinese traditional dance before. A lot of my inspiration and moves still come from my childhood exposure to traditional dance. Frankly, I got into pole-dancing [in high school] out of coincidence. When I was practicing and teaching dance, I met one person doing poles. He asked me to try. I tried. I had never expected to fall [in love with] pole-dancing so much. But as I began doing more and more of burlesque, it became a part of my life.

pole-dancing-shenzhen.JPG

Have your parents ever argued against your dancing? And how did your pole-dancing develop while you were in Chicago?
No, they were supportive. I have a great family, and they love me. In Chicago, everything went well. I kept practicing over there, studied Fine Arts and used the opportunities the city offered, like [going] to events, [and] kept fine-tuning my dancing moves. Then I started teaching. Gradually, over four years, I accumulated more students, more [of a] reputation, earned money, and for sure my skills became better as well.

How did you end up in New York?
By the time graduation loomed, I was facing a lot of pressures to have a real job. [I was] a mess, I do not know how I got through it. I applied for a fellowship program in New York with my current dancing firm, which I had wanted to enroll in since my first year. They only take a handful of people globally and they took me. I felt it was the right chance to come, and I needed to change my life – I couldn’t stay in Chicago anymore.

pole-dancing-shenzhen-1.JPG

How is New York so far?
New York is amazing. Way more opportunities and a faster-paced life… For example, this year, I choreographed a pole dance duet with an amazing dance partner and dear friend Brand On. This dance portrayed the kind of romance that has often been called “toxic” or the “crazy kind.”

Each rehearsal is a deep conversation between us. We trust each other, invite each other into our most vulnerable memories, share painful feelings and the ugly stories that lie beneath the butterflies and happy romance in our individual histories. We seek unity, and we are curious about the unknown. Together we made a team and walked on an introspective journey together.

It is very rare to find a friend that you can put so much trust in. He has a lot of strengths and I have flexibility. Our skillsets are complements to each other while we practice. Besides crafting our movement, we spent a lot of extra time building connections and discussing the details of our expressions. Sometimes we do not touch our apparatus for the whole rehearsal, but just practice looking into each other’s eyes. We want to find the right gaze. Sometimes we hold each other’s hands to feel the right touch.

pole-dancing-shenzhen-2.JPG

On our last show, we literally started arguing right before getting on stage. We warmed up too much for our emotions and we got into our characters. The stage monitor had to calm us down and tell us to “save the energy for the stage.”

Do you ever feel over-eroticized by others?
Frankly… no matter where you are, the whole entertainment industry is very sexualized. I embrace the fact instead of rejecting it.

Follow Zixy on Instagram (zixy_zhang), Facebook (ZixyDanceAndArt) or YouTube.

Zhuorui Fu is a style journalist and entrepreneur based in New York, London and Paris. Check out her YouTube, Instagram account (zhuorui_fu) or fashion collection website and Instagram (zhuoruifucollection).

 

Original Post: http://www.thatsmags.com/shenzhen/post/23383/poetry-in-pole-dancing-a-shenzhen-burlesque-dancer-s-journey

Temper Takes Five With… Shenzhen-Born, NYC-Based Fashion Globetrotter Zhuorui Fu

“Temper Takes Five With…” presents a brand spankin’ new interview quickie that leaves behind all the lovey-dovey mussy fussy and gets straight up down and dirty in five takes. One artist/innovator/inspiration at a time. Next up in our series, we have timezone traveler, fashion writer, newly hatched entrepreneur and Temper tiger Zhuorui Fu. The clock is ticking!

Read my original interview with Temper Magazine here.

 

Author: Elsbeth Van Paridon

“Global trade wars and bipolar political standings aside, I generally see the new Made In China tag as a positive and trending contribution in terms of style and the diversity of the boutique scene around the world.” Fashion voyager Zhuorui Fu

“Temper Takes Five With…” presents a brand spankin’ new interview quickie that leaves behind all the lovey-dovey mussy fussy and gets straight up down and dirty in five takes. One artist/innovator/inspiration at a time. Next up in our series, we have timezone traveler, fashion writer, newly hatched entrepreneur and Temper tiger Zhuorui Fu. The clock is ticking!

 

Take 1! Zhuorui Fu in a nutshell: Chinese, globetrotter, international fashion writer and now ticking off that “entrepreneur” box on the bucket list… What sparked a) your international journey (re: YouTube) and b) that fashionable fire within? 

Fu: Well, first off, I am a traveler. I have had the good fortune of being able to visit many places in the world, but in all honesty I think for me, it’s very important to contribute to the community. I have within myself Chinese, UK, U.S. and French elements — because I live/ have lived there, went to school there, have friends there, blah blah blah [chuckles] — and I truly admire the good parts of each and every one of those cultures. I first and foremost try to contribute to the communities in which I find myself at any given point in time.

My global journey stems from the sheer sense of curiosity — I was craving to see more of the world when I was younger, ergo… The good thing is that once you see more of the world, you grow much more sympathetic towards the human race at large, as well as gain a more in-depth understanding of different societies. The negative thing is that I may have grown a tad too transcendentalist and have gotten slightly tired of traveling — which for me at this point is more of an exhaustion than an excitement. This is of course a very prejudiced, spoiled and unfair view — I know, I know. [insert wink]

Fashionable fire comes from style. From a young age onwards, I have consistently been  trying to add some elements to how I present myself by wearing little accessories that set me apart from the crowd. I just don’t want to exude “conformity”! Nevertheless, I’m not one to go all out when it comes to my appearance. [There is indeed a very fine line between looking edgy and full-fledged court jester; just watch any random Fashion Week attendee line-up. Getting off that Temper soapbox now — we know, we know.]

I’m just more into a subtle little twist in terms of image upgrading — always keeping it feminine never girly. My past travel experiences in particular have enabled me to shop in boutiques all over the world; so whatever I wear, has a story of its own to tell. And is uncopyable.

Lou Fam 3
Artisanal, slow fashion, real, high quality: Atelier Cuir Cousu Main, available @ Zhuorui Fu Collection.

Take 2! On the positive side of things: What is it about fashion (especially China Fashion) that gets your ticker ticking?

Fu: More original designers. I have met some true artists and designers, especially local ones, and a number of artists returning from abroad. If you go on to Ju Lu Road in Shanghai, there are many good brands with a Chinese touch to them. I personally love shopping for that really old (Classical Chinese old, mind you) Chinese look. Many Chinese designers take their inspirations from the 5,000 years of the nation’s history and they create garments similar to what was all the rage back in the Tang Dynasty [618-907], Qing Dynasty [1644-1912] or whatever hundreds (even thousands) of years ago!

There are many Chinese materials such as silk, Chinese dye/ dyeing techniques, and so on and so forth, which got buried/lost in the catacombs of time, but are once again gaining increasing levels of appreciation today. Those elements embody some solid cultural values. I think it’s quite cheap, gratuitous even, to create some type of East-West “fusion fashion” by simply slapping a dragon on a T-shirt. What I really admire, are those people who stick to/by one element for one lifetime, learn the history and story of this detail, build a community around it and subsequently produce and present that element as a product in its own right. You can find more and more of these artisanal artists across China and that is one fashionably evolutionary fact I feel very positive about!

Take 3! On the flipside: What is it about today’s fashion (scene) that ticks you off?

Fu: The heavy make-ups seen in the U.S. and the UK; the Korean plastic surgery face as spotted in China. In sum, things that are not real and have been heavily fabricated ( whether this constitutes make-up, runway clothes, over-confidence or under-confidence). They showcase the pure pursuit of looks, but not a balance of looks and wisdom.

Zhuorui Fu SZFW
The woman of the hour herself: Zhuorui Fu

Take 4! Back to ticking off that “entrepreneur” box! Your brand spanking new web shop presents a “collective” of handmade labels from all over the world…Questions remain: What’s the common denominator? What’s their main “niche”? What’s the “look”?

Fu: Zhuorui Fu Collection: Allow me to take you through that check list — and quite the long list, ’tis!

Common denominators: Simple, classy, stylish, high quality, real, handmade. And sustainable — sustainability should be a top priority with any (millennial) entrepreneur in the 21st Century. I do not sell haute-couture or products that are OTT-marked at USD 5,000-something. All the products are sold at a reasonable price. I scouted every featured and designer myself, either through career objectives or past travels, networking, personal experiences, etc. Each product hails from the sweat, time and undivided effort of its creator. Each piece is filled with their passion. I have followed these designers from the sketching ground up to the sculpting everything by hand, making the required adjustments and, in the end, presenting their babies at their shops (or via private listings). That is what touches me — artisanal items made with love and zeal instead of just the mass creation of one idea.

Diasy 3
Calling all fine felines… Accessorize with Cuixu! Available @Zhuorui Fu Collection.

Main niche: Uncopyable selections. Brands can come in in all shapes and sizes; big small, developed, in development,… They are all very different and some collections sell out instantly, whereas others may take some time to gain popularity yet prove to become stylistic classics in the end. Because each product is crafted by hand one at a time, every product is unique by its own account. Many of our featured selections may appear to be very simple, but there’s always something in the details that proves their individuality. And that is precisely the point of displaying boutiques or designer brands instead of H&M or something you can buy at Walmart.

The look: Real, simple, classy. I always become very repetitive insisting that my creations are not about fashion, but about style. [insert wink] Style stems not just from one’s appearance, but from the books one has read, the places one has traveled to, the people one has loved. Style can also be fancy or colorful or gothic, but quality sets apart the proposition and temperament of one individual. I tend to like old-school and naturally sexy looks; having said that, thus far our products are more often produced from old-school materials such as leather, silk, velvet, etc., instead of, for example, transparent plastics. Certain brands carry multiple products, just think of designer Cui Xu who already can boast a few selected established lines, yet I (for now) only opted for the ones that can better cater to a customer’s looks and the ones that are made inside the U.S.

Visit the Zhuorui Fu Collection webshop right here!

Zhuorui Fu Tee from Xin Interest Studio
Zhuorui Fu boasting a XIN Studio tee. Available on Sina Weibo! #heart

Take 5! The New Made In China tag: Opinions, please. And please… Don’t hold back!

Fu: I’m actually very proud! I think that nowadays, many of the so-called Made In China labels actually denominate good quality design and originality. I also found that in wealthy Western countries, or across the non-Asian in general, many still think China is a poor country with a massive “thief/thieving” population, which is not true. Many Chinese towns have evolved into super affluent and creative beings, i.e., my hometown of Shenzhen. Because of the long history and culture, Chinese brands have a plethora of tags to play with. As I already mentioned earlier on, I for one am happy to seek out and shop at small, artisanal Made in China shops abroad. But that just limits to some silk shops etc.

I think Made In China is in fact a big and diverse basket — given ZTE Corporation, Huawei, and so the list continues, too are Made In China. The frictions thesecompanies have created in terms of a global trade war have generated bipolar standings in politics — a few “data” which admittedly lie outside the range of our talk here. Getting back on topic, I generally see the new Made In China tag as a positive and trending contribution in terms of style and the diversity of the boutique scene around the world.

 

Let’s just say… Anything big, whether it concerns a brand, corporation or ego, can present a potential hazard, but as far as the fashionable Made In China label goes… We don’t have to be too concerned about any ticking time bombs just yet. 

 

Dongbei Designer Talks Philosophy, Cool Couture at Shenzhen Fashion Week

My interview with Jason for That’s Mag. Originally posted on http://www.thatsmags.com/shenzhen/post/22742/interview-designer-jason-li-on-chinese-fashion-inspirations

 

Designer Jason Li went from ice to fire, making his way from Harbin to Shenzhen, two geographical extremes in China. His story reflects a changing Chinese fashion scene which blends North and South, West and East, youth and experience.

We chatted with the creative director of Xin Interest Studio in the midst of Shenzhen Fashion Week 2018, where his designs were being shown. Recounting his past 17 years in the creative industry, Li shared style inspirations as well as difficulties encountered at a time when China’s fashion industry was still in limbo.

Fu: Tell me about your designs. Who or what inspires you?
Li: Design pieces that converse with both West and East make me think. A Shanghainese designer who also happens to be my mentor, Yi Hui, inspired me. His persistence in pursuing good quality – his studio focuses on entirely handmade Chinese menswear – gave me courage. Especially when he told me, “Xin, keep on making your Chinese-style fashion.”

Yi Hui does not open stores everywhere: quality over quantity. Although he does haute-couture luxury clothing, which give him money, I don’t. My pieces are for the younger generation, who do not have excessive purchasing power; even if they do, they won’t buy ultra-luxe.

For example, the T-shirt I am wearing is a gift at [our] events. Even if some people want to buy it, I don’t sell it. I want to influence people with my idea of ‘New Life’ instead of just selling clothes.

harbin-designer-jason-li-5.jpg

What is ‘New Life’?
First, it comes from my first decade of experience working at first-rate international luxury brands. As I went, I found out that the customers did not know what they were actually buying – they were not aware of what styles to pursue in life.

So I wanted to do clothes that are appropriate to wear according to the occasion, and to add a ceremonial feeling to everyday life for my customers. Appropriateness is the first element: [customers should] buy things that suit their income level instead of saving three months for an expensive bag.

Second, New Life is also tailored for people that are already materially fulfilled. Those people also need a harmonious, healthy and unrestricted life. I want my customers to be open to try alternative colors, for example, to allow a customer that always says “I can only wear black” to wear something else.

In particular, many of my Harbin customers tend to spend a large amount on styling, yet the look in the end is not aesthetically appealing. My team and I are here to teach them how to balance their garments with accessories, bags, and proper perfumes.

harbin-designer-jason-li-4.jpg

What distinguishes you from other designers?
Interaction. Most Chinese designers authoritatively decide on the themes they want to create, but my studio promotes a culture. For example, the Chinese dragon T-shirt I am wearing right now is a very normal T-shirt. But with the ‘New Life’ [philosophy] and my design, this T-shirt has meaning.

Inside my collar, I embroidered, ‘don’t forget the beginning,’ which encourages people to protect the purity of their initial feelings. It is a new year’s resolution, too. At the back is a demon. Everybody has a bad side, which I think should be hidden. We need to show our positive side to people. This is also a part of ‘New Life.’

These meanings endow my customers with a mission. I also try to use environmentally-friendly traditional Chinese zharan [coloring techniques] in the new piece too, which is special as well.

When you just started, I am sure it wasn’t easy, especially two decades ago. 
It was really difficult. I started in Harbin with two floors for my brand. At first, nobody bought my clothes – people didn’t understand. They were into international brands. We lost money for many years; only recently did we start to see profits.

But I stayed and insisted on what I wanted to do. My sister is also a designer. In our early years, she was in Shenzhen, so I actually came to Shenhen to work with her. We did brands like Chanel, Gucci, etc.

It was good money, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. So I went back to Harbin to stay with my local crowd. At first, I sold what other designers had given to me. As I gradually tapped the pulse of fashion sales, I could foresee the next best-selling types of clothes and I often bounced back details back to the designers to modify.

In the end, my co-workers said, “Xin, you are so good at designing, why don’t you start creating a brand yourself?”

So I started. Before fashion design, I did hair styling. Then makeup. Then garments. Then a positive outlook. I think elegance comes from the heart, so I started to promote [certain] thoughts and states of mind. My clothes are accoutrements of the culture.

harbin-designer-jason-li-3.jpg

What’s next for you?
I never thought about selling over the whole country or expanding overseas. I just want to do it well and do it locally. Maybe there are chances to go big, but I’d rather use my [time] to influence my local community. Friends from Shenzhen always say, “[Jason], Harbin does not have a fashion scene. Come to Shenzhen.”

I know that, but I’m persevering in what I want to do. The taste in garments of many Chinese people, especially those in Harbin, are still undeveloped. I have much to work on.

Follow Li on Weibo here.

Zhuorui Fu is an entrepreneur and budding influencer with a passion for fashion. Watch her YouTube recap of Shenzhen Fashion Week here. Find the Youku version here.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

[Images via Jason Li]