The Chinese designer Zhang Zhaoda always seems to whip-up a sensation on the catwalk stage, although at the recent Shanghai International Fashion Festival most people seemed more focused on the four big brand shows held in Xintiandi.
But Zhang revealed his strength and magic at Donghua Fashion Week, held at Donghua University, with his latest collection - "Royal Glory".
With ethnic tones, a rich palette and gorgeous styles, Zhang's collection takes its inspiration from the centuries-old Forbidden City, telling a story of confinement and liberty, traditional elegance and modern combinations.
As one of the most influential Chinese fashion designers today, Zhang continually draws inspiration from history and fantasy.
In his themed fashions, the inspirations come from Chinese deserts, Dunhuang Fresco Art and royal families, but he has used modern materials and cuts so that the old comes through in the new.
Compounding Chinese elements with his designs, Zhang does not simply imitate ancient styles, but blends them with traditional sensibility and details , materials and accessories.
Fascinated by ancient styles of construction, Zhang has made lavish use of symmetrization, bias-cutting, pleating, carving, lace-trimming, embroidering, fagoting, sequinning and beading.
To express these old elements in a modern way, he blends, cuts and recombines them in a creative way, exhibiting throughout his passion for, and pride in, the traditional culture.
Zhang's palette is almost intoxicating in its richness, constituting what is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the collection. The shining yellow which represents the imperial family's colour, the pure white, the dark tones such as brown and jade, and, of course, the bright red, are all emphasized by a series of amphibious purples, greys and dark blues.
Zhang was born in a small town called Shaxi in South China's Guangdong Province in 1963. At the age of 10 he began learning oil painting and started his voyage of artistic discovery.
In 1997, he was elected as the first fashion designer to win the Golden Crown Award, the highest prize in China's fashion industry to date.
In the same year he was appointed head designer for the domestic fashion house Firs.
Meanwhile, he has continued to expand his own business, launching a men's label called "Fair Whale" in 2000, followed by a youthful Fair Whale casual range, the women's collection Lazenel and a bath and home collection, Sunvim & Mark.
(Shanghai Star March 30, 2004)