Paying homage to his Chinese heritage, Zang Toi sent out “Paris of the Orient”, a collection inspired by 1930s Shanghai wherein the New York-based designer created a perfect blend of old world charm, European elegance and Eastern mystique then came up with a groundbreaking interpretation of the Qi Pao.
Born in Malaysia to a family of Chinese descent, Zang comes from a long line of businessmen. But, his creative talent showed through even at a young age. And support came from an unexpected place, his father.
“It was my dad who first championed my creative talent by encouraging me to draw and sketch,” said Zang.
Mr. Toi, who has been Zang’s biggest supporter in his entire 23-year career passed away recently. Zang dedicates his Fall 2014 collection to his father which makes “Paris of the Orient” personal and dear to his heart. Thus, taking Shanghai as his inspiration is fitting; choosing the 1930s as the era of interest is genius!
In a New York season wherein Old World aesthetics is a main trend and designers looked into continental Europe for inspiration, Zang Toi looked into another part of the world during a different time to be on trend yet ahead of the curve.
Shanghai in the 1930s is a thriving metropolis and the world’s fifth largest city wherein 70,000 foreigners who were mostly European make up the population. The British, the French, the Russians and even the Americans made their mark and had their own enclaves.
Earning the nickname “Paris of the Orient” during that era, Shanghai lived up to that reputation. The Qi Pao still ruled as the dress of choice by women. But, western influence and aesthetics also dominated. With history as his guide, Zang Toi incorporated elements from 1930s Shanghai era to his signature look.
With the Chinese considering jade as the “essence of heaven and earth,” Zang chose green as his main color palette. Mixed with grey, black and maroon, it gave the feeling of tempered exuberance. And with mini-skirts paired with thigh-high stockings to show a bit of skin, the Zang Toi woman smolders with naughtiness bubbling to the top.
It’s good girls gone bad wearing couture! The opening number, a Loro Piana cashmere glenplaid 1930s gangster trouser suit worn with silver fox stole said it all. “Watch out! I might look like an angel, but I’m dangerous,” it screams.
Every exit exudes elegance with an element of danger! Once again, this is bad boy Zang pushing the envelope. Zang toes the line of sensuality without crossing into erotica.
But one line Zang did cross is the use of body jewelry. Making the jewelry part of the dress erased any thoughts of BDSM. But it still gave the feeling of “Fifty Shades of Grey [and Jade]”.
Photos by Eka Halim, courtesy of Zang Toi