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Main Image: Courtesy Fengyi Tan

Fengyi Tan's Emotional Experimentation

The Chinese designer feels at home in London, presenting her collection through an immersive, layered performance during London Fashion Week.

How we move between the real and the virtual is the inspiration behind Chinese designer Fengyi Tan’s London Fashion Week’s debut, “Body in Motion,” — which she considers a fashion performance. Already known for her provocative installations at Shanghai Fashion Week, she now brings her performative approach to fashion to London and if this show is anything to go by, she is going to give the city’s creatives a run for their money.

Held in the depths of the BFC’s discoverylab, Tan conjured up an unsettling and powerful moment of difference amid all the noise of fashion week. “Movement is the best way to explore the possibilities for my elastic materials on a body,” Tan explains. “The performance gives reason and emotion to the movements, and by integrating video capture and sound into the installation, I can project the complete brand story.”

“Movement is the best way to explore the possibilities for my elastic materials on a body”

The use of transparency and textures, both in the garments and Tuo Lin’s perspex-built set design, add an otherworldliness to the presentation. Accompanied by a musical score, created by Beibei Wang, that flowed from soundscape into live instrumentation culminating in a beat, the collection was worn by dancers and models who peered out from behind corrugated sci-fi paravan standing mid-set. A trio hauntingly traverse the set, contorting and gyrating in swimwear. Flocking together now and then, they cower from behind plastic sheets, resembling weird Macbethian witches, casting a duplicity of reflections that call to mind Bowie’s Jerome Newton.

All this drama does not entirely take away from the garments themselves; soft, draped dresses and layered separates with a sporty edge make for an entirely wearable collection — despite the masked cyborg-esque models. The application of signature linear prints call to mind the fluidity of Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please line, yet here manages to pop with freshness. Transparency again is a recurring theme, touching sleeves, hems and forming panels in elastic fabrics sourced from China.

“I graduated from London and have collaborated with dancers and artists from the city many times, so there are always connections,” says Tan, “I often travel between here and Shanghai to work with different people, so it's very natural for us to come to London.” Tan’s emotive combination of fashion, art and performance is wholly reflective of contemporary Chinese creativity, and entirely what guests come to expect at Shanghai Fashion Week’s Labelhood platform. This season saw one of the strongest representations yet for Chinese designers, and for now they seem happy to use London as a calling card — but for how long?