In fashion, as in politics these days, it often feels as if there are no adults in the room, leaving the void to be filled by spin doctors, some experts, and number crunchers. Welcome Uma Wang, whose spring collection was a show of strength inspired by nature. Black Spiderman Fighting Christmas Tree Christmas Ornament, A bit about the designer: Born Wang Zhi in Hebei, China, she studied in Shanghai at Donghua University and at Central Saint Martins. Wang formed her own label in 2009 and became the first Chinese designer to show on the European fashion calendar, paving the way for others, and in 2012 became a member of La Chambre Syndicale de la Mode Feminine. Presented digitally, Wang’s spring 2023 collection, like many others, was inspired by the possibility of travel following lockdowns, and the force and magnetic pull of nature. The designer experienced that firsthand during a recent visit to North Africa. The neutral palette conjured the serene eternity of desert sands; coffee dye gave an earthiness to some of the materials. The second look was created from one length of a metal and cotton fabric that resembles tree bark. Sheer nylon was used, said Wang on a call, to evoke “a white cloud in the sky.” Just as Wang harnessed different natural elements—sky and earth, for example—so she combined menswear touches with soft draping, flou, and structure. This collection read as mature as opposed to trendy because of the clarity of Wang’s vision, which is largely derived from her passion for materials. The designer works closely with Italian mills creating incredible, often textural fabrics, which help to inform the silhouettes.
For spring, Wang borrowed from the world of interiors a frayed cotton meant to evoke a woman wearing something she found at an antiques market. This amazing textile spoke to the “undone and distressed” themes of the season, but more so to the feeling of connection to history and culture that informs Wang’s work. There was an ’80s boldness to menswear-inspired coats, jackets, and sleeves, for example. The square-toe shoes were inspired by those worn during the Ming Dynasty. The styling of the necklaces and hats, which veered toward the appropriative, tripped up a narrative that otherwise felt like a true fusion of elements relating to culture, history, and gender forged into something new. A geometric pyramid pattern could have been a reference to African textile traditions or Secessionist ones. In her show notes, Wang wrote of nature existing beyond boundary and taboo; she associates wilderness with freedom (mobile and spiritual). The humility one feels in the face of the natural world finds a parallel in the designer’s respect for textiles and craft, but otherwise this collection, which showcased Wang’s formidable talents, celebrated the power of a woman, giving her the option to stand strong, proud, free with the sturdiness of a tree or the gentleness of a cloud.