Designed by Beijing native Zhang Na, the Fake Natoo label in 2008 launched itself into out-of-this-world fashionably healthy spheres, quickly landing on China’s most-wanted designer list. Jessica Laiter puts on her cloche hat and chases down this dragon for us.
“Our heritage is our everything. Old clothes hold the traces of people’s lives, of humanity,” Zhang Na.
Fake Natoo gives us reason to believe that the hopes for a healthier China have finally been reckoned for. The Post-80s and -90s make every effort to alter the global gaze on China, helping to shift focus from a country blamed for its environmentally-disastrous actions, to its more progressive individuals whose fashions serve as a looking glass into China’s softer side. Beijing-born and -bred Zhang Na marches at the forefront of this movement. A run-through:
- Zhang studied Fashion Design at the Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts in the department of Fashion Design Education and later attended Mod’art International Paris;
- Her label was launched in 2008 under the original brand name “Na(too)”, which later on transformed into Fake Natoo;
- Say what? “Fake”: Well, there already was a brand labeled “Natoo” and that was the harsh reality of it. Hence Zhang simply took it to the next level of exaggeration/pun. “Na”? Her first name. “Too”? Meaning “possibility”;
- Zhang’s true passion is found in her striving to create a more permanent bond between people, clothing, and the environment.
Although still quite small in China, the niche of sustainability has turned into a trend. One that is fashion forward and rooted in rich heritage.
As a descendent of Manchu nobility, Zhang harbors a strong sense of responsibility towards creating fashions that are based on her Chinese background. Going back in time a mere three years, we find a perfectly befitting example of this innate sense of heritage in Fake Natoo’s A/W 2014 opening. Hosted inside the Beijing 798 Art District, Zhang presented her collection featuring recurring themes from nomadic culture and lifestyle, playing on the notes of sincerity and authenticity of a life strongly tied to Mother Earth. Coming down the catwalk to the chants of Mongolian folk bands and grassland songs by a Xinjiang Regional band, Zhang had woven together a collective of chosen hues and featured fabrics — cashmere, alpaca, mohair and organic wool imported from Italy — that richly reflected the natural tones of Earth.
With a return to Mother Earth, comes the awareness of how we, as a global collective, have been treating Her. Chinese designers and consumers too are increasingly branching out from runway and fast fashion to the globe-sweeping phenomenon that is sustainable and organic fashion. Sustainability is rapidly turning into one of the better talked-about-topics across China’s industrious landscape. Albeit still quite small, this niche industry has somewhat turned into a trending topic — from online platforms such as Sina Weibo to the offline reality of, say, restored straight razors. It is a trend that is both fashion forward as well as rooted in rich heritage. And what better way to shed light on China’s growing environmentalist community than through fashion.
Those forming the backbone of the emerging eco-friendly brands clearly showcase China’s capability to become one of this niche’s strongest competitors.
Zhang is also taking fashion risks outside of her own label. One independent project that first commanded the audience’s attention at a 2010 art exhibition in Australia, “Reclothing Bank” was and is Zhang’s response to China’s rapid development. “Reclothing” stands for the re-making and re-designing of secondhand clothes, whilst “Bank” signifies a platform for the circulation and exchange of old materials. I myself label this a “risk” since the Chinese consumer market has of now not yet attributed significant value to sustainable fashion; it remains a novice concept. Nevertheless, those who stand behind the emerging eco-friendly brands clearly showcase China’s capability to become one of this niche’s strongest competitors. Hope floats for fashion and thank God for floaty suits. Watch as Timothy Parent of China Fashion Bloggers finds out more at the Reclothing Bank Fashion Show 2017:
“We have a plethora of older articles in our lives, a lot of which we throw away; or that we keep hidden in the back of our closets. This is not what we should be doing in terms of environmental protection. I just feel that people sometimes look back at their old things and realize their sentimental value. You need to slow down and think about the past before thinking about the present or the future.” Zhang explains in her own words. Heritage is everything.
This Chinese Gen-X designer lives by the professional code that old clothes hold the traces of people’s lives, of humanity. In the hope that wearing redesigned old clothes can make people pause and contemplate their present and future, Zhang continuously powers through on her fashion travels, taking adversity in her stride with a healthy dose of humor. Low-key she may very well be, yet high hopes we hold for her brand and the philosophy it entails.
As far as that fashionable health is concerned… As they (well, B.C. Forbes) say: “In the race for success, speed is less important that stamina. So power on through and remain brand-new!
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY JESSICA LAITER FOR HER WEBSITE CHINESE GRAFFITI (READ ON TO FIND OUT MORE!).
ADDITIONAL EDITING BY ELSBETH VAN PARIDON.
FEATURED IMAGE: COPYRIGHT @Fake Natoo.
FOLLOW LAITER ON INSTAGRAM: @ChineseGraffiti
A FEW ADDITIONAL WORDS ABOUT LAITER AND HER FASHION-PROMO WEBSITE CHINESE GRAFFITI:
CHINESE GRAFFITI WAS LAUNCHED IN ORDER TO PROVIDE THE WORLD WITH AN EXCITING AND DYNAMIC WAY TO LEARN ABOUT CHINESE HISTORY AND CULTURE VIA A FASHION PLATFORM, AND OF COURSE TO PROMOTE EMERGING CHINESE DESIGNERS.
LEARNING ABOUT CHINA WAS A PASSION OF JESSICA’S SINCE CHILDHOOD, AND HAS ONLY GROWN STRONGER WITH THE YEARS. ALWAYS KNOWING SHE WANTED TO PLAY A PART IN CROSS CULTURAL COMMUNICATION, SHE FIRST TACKLED THE “EASY” TASK OF LEARNING MANDARIN, GOING ON TO GRADUATE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH WITH A DUAL DEGREE IN CHINESE STUDIES AND COMMUNICATIONS RHETORIC. IN THE PAST 10 YEARS, SHE ATTENDED INTENSIVE SUMMER LANGUAGE PROGRAMS, STUDIED, WORKED AND TRAVELED ACROSS CHINA, AND IS CURRENTLY PURSUING A MASTERS DEGREE IN TRANSLATION AT NEW YORK UNIVERSITY.
JESSICA HAS WORKED IN THE FOOTWEAR, BRANDING, AND CONSULTING INDUSTRIES, HELPING TO BRIDGE COMMUNICATION, BUSINESS, AND CULTURAL GAPS FOR MAJOR CLIENTS FROM BOTH EAST AND WEST.
LIVING IN NEW YORK CITY MEANS HAVING THE WORLD AT YOUR FINGERTIPS. UNIQUE LIFE EXPERIENCES HAVE GUIDED JESSICA INTO RARE OPPORTUNITIES WHERE SHE HAS MET FASHION, BUSINESS, AND CULTURAL LEADERS FROM CITIES ACROSS THE GLOBE, MANY OF WHICH SHARE A PASSION FOR MULTICULTURALISM AND UNBOUNDED SUPPORT FOR EMERGING TALENT. THE HOPE IS TO SHARE WITH YOU THIS PASSION AND TO PASS ON WHY CHINA IS NOT JUST A COUNTRY OF 1.4 BILLION PEOPLE, AND SHOULD BE RECOGNIZED FOR MORE THAN ITS ECONOMIC SUCCESS. IT IS A PLACE OF TRADITION, CULTURE, FASHION, ART AND DESIGN. AND ITS STORY DESERVES TO BE TOLD.
After tackling Beijing for some six years where she worked for China International Publishing Group, she spent a moment in time moseying down steep alleyways and writing about their fashionable and underground features in Hong Kong.
Van Paridon most recently managed to claw her way through a Europe-based academic endeavor called "Journalism". 'Tis in such fashion that she has now turned her lust for China Fashion/ Lifestyle and Underground into a full time occupation.
Van Paridon hunts down the latest in Chinese menswear, women’s clothing, designer newbies, established names, changes in the nation’s street scenery, close-ups of particular trends presently at play or of historical socio-cultural value in Chinaplus a selection of budding photographers.
Paired with a deep devotion to China’s urban underground scene, van Paridon holds a particular interest in the topics of androgyny, the exploration of individuality and the power that is the Key Opinion Leader (the local term for “influencers”) in contemporary China.
Latest posts by Elsbeth van Paridon (see all)
- Call For Entries: The A’Design Award And Competition - February 9, 2019
- China’s LGBT Culture In Fashion: A Non-Labeled Androgynous Aesthetic - January 30, 2019
- Fashionably Wasted No More: The Sustainable Revolutionary - January 23, 2019