Interview: Wei Lin and Mijia Zhang Unite Knitwear and Tech with PH5

February 10, 2018 11:00 AM

To be truly innovative, a designer must be able to control a garment's construction down to each thread. That's what makes PH5, the fashion house created by Wei Lin and Mijia Zhang, so extraordinary. Their luxury knits, with a mod-spaceage aesthetic are programmed thread-by-thread through a partnership between Zhang, the creative director, and Lin, who oversees production at her family's factory in Dongguan, China. The result is a seamless hybrid of form and function, technology and human ingenuity, glamour and fun. 

"We have full control over everything, from start to finish," explains Zhang, from the balcony of the Samsung 837 building, as 17 models in head-to-toe PH5 knits frolicked in the staging area below. The mission to take knits where they have never gone before begins with Zhang sending a series of sketches to the engineers at the Lin factory, and through a series of correspondences, they arrive at the colorful works of wearable art featured on the models. 

Signature PH5 design elements such as stripes, A-line skirts, asymmetric silhouettes, high-leg bodysuits, and straight-legged jumpsuits are present in the new collection as well, but for Fall/Winter 2018, Lin and Zhang decided to pay homage to Italian designers of the 1980s with vibrant colors: a red slack-sleeved dress and magenta A-line skirt with white trim are particularly striking. But for Lin and Zhang, functionality is just as important as design. They have engineered their garments to be comfortable on the skin, resistant to pilling and stretching, and easy to wash and care for.  

Because technology is such an integral part of Lin and Zhang's design and production, they paid homage to the Dongguan factory that brings their ideas to life with a virtual reality display. It afforded curiosity-seekers at their fashion show a 360-degree look at the dozens of massive machines with flashing lights and knobs, controlled by highly-skilled engineers and machinists, that spit out meticulously constructed jumpsuits, skirts and dresses. In a further nod to the importance of tech in design, PH5 chose two of its models from Girls Who Code, a national non-profit dedicated to increasing interest and participation in tech fields by young women. 

PH5 designs have been compared to Missoni, because of their knit construction and signature stripes, but I look at it more along the lines of early Pucci. Each piece is timeless and collectable, as wearable now as it will be in decades. To get your hands on a piece of Ph5 fashion history, you can check out their own e-commerce site, or look for select designs online at Shopbop and Moda Operandi. But if you are hunting for the knit knee-high boots seen in the F/W 2018 show, be forewarned. They were created in small numbers for the models to wear at the show, but Lin and Zhang have not yet decided whether to add them to their upcoming production run. On behalf of myself and several other shoe-hounds milling about the show, we desperately hope the turquoise boots get the green light.   

 

WRITTEN BY KAREN-FRAGALA SMITH

 

PHOTOGRAPHY: RYOSUKE MIYAI

 

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