Panthea shows semi-couture aspiration


Two years after winning the regional fashion design competition Audi Star Creation, Chinese designer Chen Zhi Gang, 30, will make his debut at the Audi Fashion Festival in Singapore this May with a collection designed for Panthea, a new high-end line for Singapore label Zardoze.

After winning the Audi competition and completing a one-year internship with fashion retailer F J Benjamin, the Hunan native joined Zardoze last October and was tasked with launching the new brand.

The 26-piece collection of evening gowns is inspired by nature, with a focus on fine workmanship and intricate details, the dresses feature lace with hand-sewn adornments including pearls, coral stones, and bamboo sheets. Excepet from an interview for SEA.ARTINFO.COM

Tell me about your journey so far as a designer?

Since young, I have always been instinctively drawn towards fashion design. I think it runs in my family — we are all very visual people. My father was a tailor so, as a kid, I grew up watching him tinker with his sewing machine and picked up several tailoring techniques along the way. The truth, though, is that my dad was not too keen on me becoming a fashion designer, especially since he understands how difficult it can be. I relented and decided to pursue graphic design in Szechuan and worked as a graphic designer for four years in Shanghai and Beijing. But I wasn’t happy because I was more inclined towards fashion. In 2008, I finally decided to enroll in Raffles Design Institute (Shanghai) as a fashion design student. Before I graduated in April 2011, my teachers encouraged me to participate in Audi Star Creation, and here I am.

Why did you decide to join Panthea?

Panthea has been conceived as a couture line and I have always dreamed of being able to design couture. As lead designer, I oversee every step of the process, from design to production.

What are the challenges?

It is challenging having to build up a young label like Panthea. On the design side, we have to look into the entire process, from the concept and design to the choice of materials. It is back-breaking work, but I appreciate the creative license that I’ve been given as a designer.

How have your designs evolved from your winning collection for Audi Star to Panthea?

My competition collection was inspired by a man’s love for a woman. I applied the cut and detailing of men’s jackets and suits to my women’s wear pieces, symbolizing the protection of a man over a woman. I juxtaposed different shades of black against my favorite color – peach blossom — to highlight a woman’s inner beauty. My capsule collection that went down the runway in 2012 was an expansion of that first collection and drew from the same inspiration. I included shades such as nude and white, and explored the usage of zippers as an embellishment. Because Panthea consists entirely of evening gowns, for this collection I have veered towards a more feminine aesthetic.

What was the inspiration for this first collection?

There are 26-pieces all inspired by the natural phenomena that occur around us: sand dunes built by wind, the surging swells in water bodies, the way rivers flow. I view these occurrences as the pulse of nature, much like blood in our circulatory system. These elements are integrated into my designs through shape, color, and other details.

Couture is all about craftsmanship?

Yes, and there is a lot of attention given here on fine workmanship and intricate details. The dresses feature lace with hand-sewn adornments, including pearls, coral stones, and sequins. I feel that lace is a material that brings out a woman’s femininity. Its appearance also mirrors some of the textures you find in nature: the bark on trees, animal skins, and the edges of mountains, for example.

Who is the Panthea woman?

The Panthea woman is confident and individualistic. She is opinionated, determined and knows what she wants. She does not let the clothes wear her, she wears the clothes