Throwing caution to the wind, Dingyun Zhang launched his eponymous clothing brand in February 2021 amidst a pandemic that's brought fashion supply chains to their knees. It wouldn't be so bad if Zhang dabbled primarily in simple hoodies or sweatpants, perhaps, but the Central Saint Martins grad specializes in one of the most demanding mediums in all of casual apparel.
Zhang's practice is entirely defined by immense puffer jackets, coats, vests, and pants, sometimes cutting these pieces so huge that they swallow the human form whole.
Ye's influence, meanwhile, can be felt in the generous cuts that Zhang prefers, a reflection of the far-reaching cultural influences absorbed into his design practice.
"The silhouettes able to exist with puffers and padded materials also express my love of hip-hop style and culture," Zhang told Highsnobiety. "Then, I abstract these with influences of artists like Christo and Jeanne-Claude."
"I also often research ethnic groups that live in extreme weather conditions, as this has an influence on the appearance of their clothes and lifestyle. What they eat and wear are often connected by environment available to them."
Zhang got extra conceptual with these creations, channeling inspiration from Moncler's native mountains, deep sea wildlife and even the warped shapes of inflatable pools submerged in water.
These disparate inspirations were translated into Zhang's blown-up layering pieces, with the results looking all the world like plush coral reefs layered atop the body.
"I wanted to create a simultaneous clash and harmony between my construction ideas and Moncler’s traditional details," Zhang said.
Zhang and Moncler also created exaggerated face masks, leggings and bike shorts to layer beneath his puffy outerwear, all realized in organic shades that ironically become alien when applied to Zhang's exaggerated shapes.
"Moncler allowed me to work hands on with their materials, trimmings and patches that have been signature to the brand," continued Zhang. "They didn’t allow COVID-19 to be a barrier for this collaboration and shipped me all the materials I needed to explore all the possibilities of form and details. It was a chance to translate their traditions and heritage into my own language, recognizing the fact that there is no present or future without past."
The ensuing innovations in silhouette speak to Moncler's desire to give its Genius program the necessary space to operate at peak, well genius. It's a good strategy: this open-mindedness has only boosted the Italian company's fortunes.
Moncler's supportiveness allowed Zhang to take the necessary time to implement subtle details, like hidden zippered pockets and Chinese-style knotted buttons, and refine some of his challenging structural concerns.
"References from deep sea creatures created the holes and openings in some of the garments, which abstract the human form while simultaneously allowing air to reach certain parts of the body," Zhang explained. "And I used bonding techniques to create a gutter structure on a jacket, accelerating the flow of rain off of the body."
The collection, an impressive flex of creative muscle, also reflects Zhang's swift growth as an independent designer. Remember: he only launched his brand a year ago.
"Transitioning from graduate designer to launching my own company has been a mixed experience, with COVID heavily affecting the production side of my company and really limiting my ability to drop," he said. "Working with the proper level of production is important to make my creations real."
Here's where the Genius collaboration crosses over from mere co-sign to proper creative boon: "Working with Moncler has been a kind of answer to the demand and critique of my collections being yet to officially drop."
"The opportunity to release real life pieces to the market, that are so reminiscent and influenced by my own vision, is one that I was grateful to take part in."
That boundless demand that Zhang's referring to comes from his 100k+ Instagram followers, who fawn over Zhang's adventurous creations and beg him to release more product.
That's where the pandemic-wrought production concerns rear up, of course, but there's always light at the end of the tunnel. In this case, it comes courtesy of Moncler.
"Working with a company like Moncler, that has all the resources and architecture I would need to create, was a limitless process in terms of balance between design and production of my sculptural language," Zhang continued.
"I appreciate how much people have resonated with my work, and have been influenced to make their own artworks inspired by my pieces. I get a lot of young artists creating 3D and 2D art or styling their own outfits in reference to my collections and tagging me — this connection through social media let me know that there are people out there that really understand what I am trying to say, and inspire me to continue."
Now that Zhang's fastidiously perfected puffers are becoming the stuff of legend, will he turn his eponymous brand's focus beyond outerwear?
"Creating a signature cut of a t-shirt or hoodie, or recurring detail of a trouser that can last many seasons is really important," Zhang said. "I’m building the foundation for my base pieces that evokes the same function, and references the relationship with the body that inspires my outwear pieces. I’m also approaching footwear to add to the layering and building of my silhouettes."
One staple piece at a time. But doesn't it feel odd to drop a Spring/Summer collection mostly informed by the warmest garments on Earth?
"I always try to consider a range of cuts for the puffers so that some will exist as all-season pieces," Zhang explained. "Especially in cities where the weather can be temperamental, an all season puffer — like one of my puffer vests, for example — can be part of the wardrobe all year round."
You heard it here first, folks: puffers forever.