airport_transferbarbathtubbusiness_facilitieschild_activitieschildcareconnecting_roomcribsfree_wifigymhot_tubinternetkitchennon_smokingpetpoolresturantski_in_outski_shuttleski_storagesmoking_areaspastar
Sign In
Tommy Zhong SS17
Tommy Zhong SS17
Save to wishlist

Behind The Seams With Emerging Designer Tommy Zhong

Picture of India Doyle
Updated: 23 September 2016
Starting a new fashion label requires a mixture of creative vision, financial savviness and a fearless (some would say delusional) attitude towards the industry. It’s a mighty feat. Thankfully Jenny and Tommy, the pair behind the Tommy Zhong, seem more than prepared for the hurdles facing a young brand.

When I drop by their Hackney studio to meet the creative team, Jenny and Tommy are relaxed and jolly, having completed their SS17 collection well ahead of schedule for London Fashion Week. Seated around a table which plays host to a calendar laden with deadlines and upcoming presentations, as well as a couple of cadburys multi-packs, the pair have an easy chemistry. Having met each other while interning at the much hyped designer, Yang Li, it was Tommy who convinced Jenny to come onboard and launch their own brand. “Initially I wasn’t interested in starting a label but after spending time working for other people…you want to do your own thing.”

Tommy Zhong SS17
Tommy Zhong SS17

The pair places great emphasis on their textiles, ensuring a fresh take on classic silhouettes through collaborations with artists and experiments with new materials.We want to use other people’s skills to combine with our brand, and make our collection dynamic and more interesting.”

Having been selected by Italian Vogue to attend the highly respected fair in Milan, Tommy Zhong is going from strength to strength. But launching a label poses innumerable challenges. “At the beginning we didn’t have many resources or the connections with magazines or buyers. It’s getting better as we grow. You don’t know what people are going to think about it when you put it out there, and it’s always nerve racking when you put it out. It was also hard to find a manufacturer with that fitted with us. We used to have a lot of raw edges and different finishes, which isn’t the automatic way of finishing clothes, and manufacturers weren’t used to that. The next season we’re going to start making samples in house so we have full control, and it will save a lot of money and time.”

Tommy Zhong SS17
Tommy Zhong SS17

Tommy Zhong is among a host of exciting Asian talent to be creating a buzz in the mainstream fashion industry. Having trained in London, the designer doesn’t draw directly from his eastern heritage, but instead focusses on channeling his background through the shape of the clothes. “There’s not like, dragons, on the clothes. I’ve never thought it should be obvious, that I should use something like Chinese lettering on the clothes – it’s been done before and it doesn’t do anything. The influence can be seen in that the clothes are very oversized, with loose lines. They aren’t body conscious – neither of us like tight stuff, we’ve got the light fabric and we wanted it to flow.”

Tommy Zhong SS17
Tommy Zhong SS17

Alongside their forward thinking approach to textiles, the pair have brought a savvy attitude to the design process. “Every season — we start by researching fabric. We go to fairs, choose what we want and what we’re most interested in. We ring the textile idea to the clothes. We sew basic items — jackets, trousers, and then ask a model to come and do a fitting. We don’t sketch at all, it’s more visual and more about the practical element. We develop the shape exactly as we want it, as opposed to translating it from a sketch where the reality doesn’t match what you initially want. Ours is more of a collagey style. The concept kind of follows from the initial creations, it’s more practical.”

London Fashion Week marks the beginning of a busy season for the Tommy Zhong duo. After London they’ll head to Paris, Milan and finally Shanghai. Do they worry about having to balance their creativity with commercial savviness? The answer is a resounding no. “The buyers always buy the more crazy stuff anyway.”

Tommy Zhong SS17
Tommy Zhong SS17