MTG combines and contrasts modern silhouettes with ethnic elements, which continues the fusion and clash of minimalist lines and embellishes the craftsmanship of Zhuang minority patchworks with zero-waste cutting techniques.
Mind The Gap’s (MTG) SS23 collection, titled “BUYA,” presented a deeper exploration of the cultural symbols of the designer duo’s minority home in south China: the Flower Goddess. The collection was inspired by Huang Shaocong’s 2016 collection of prose, titled “Die in the Native Language,” which revolves around the Zhuang minority’s beliefs and worship of the Flower Goddess.
For this ethnic group mainly residing in China’s Guangxi Zhuang (what’s in a name) Autonomous Region, nature corresponds to the human spirit. The god of creation, Buya, was born in a flower.
The Zhuang people’s lifetime is one overflowing with romance, with birth a gift from the Flower Goddess, marriage the planting of two flowers together, and death the goddess’ retrieval of the flower.
The Minority Minutiae
At over 16 million members strong, the Zhuang make up the largest of China’s 55 ethnic groups–we’re not including the Han population that covers 91.11% of the population, according to the 2020 seventh national census, here. Although long integrated into the national fabric, the Zhuang have preserved their cultural traditions that date as early as the Paleolithic period.
An estimated 90% of Zhuang people live in Guangxi, located in south China on the border with Vietnam. The area has been a part of China on and off since the country’s unification in 221 B.C., but it has always been considered somewhat of a lone ranger. Guangxi is incredibly popular with international travelers, due in part to its iconic, geologically karstic landscape, which is featured on the RMB20 bill, if memory serves–cash is rare in today’s first-tier landscape where this author struts down the streets.
The remaining 10 percent of Zhuang people are scattered across the other southern provinces of Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou, and Hunan. #nowyouknow
The Zhuang have their own indigenous religion known as Moism or Shigongism, which is an animist faith, i.e., the belief that all non-human entities, including animals, plants, and even inanimate objects, possess a spiritual essence or soul, based on their prehistoric beliefs. The polytheistic nature of the religion means they worship many things, from giant rocks and old trees through to dragons and birds, although the main focus is on ancestor worship.
Plant patterns mostly appear in the form of flowers. The most common floral decorations on Zhuang costumes include sunflowers, hexagonal flowers, osmanthus flowers, chrysanthemums, peony flowers, and so the list keeps growing. The Zhuang simply have a proclivity for nature’s lush floral palette.
MTG, then, decided to whip up a Zhuang-inspired SS23 silhouette that “revisits the relationship between the human anatomy and clothing through corresponding multidimensional dynamic aesthetics, with the aim of returning the body to its natural state of comfort,” to quote the brand.
The MTG Minutiae
MTG was co-founded by Guangxi natives LAI (Lai Yuqing) and Christine (Xu Shangqian), who graduated from the London College of Fashion with a Master’s in womenswear and the University of Westminster with a Master’s in menswear, respectively.
After participating in London Fashion Week AW18 and SS19, their work was splashed across the online pages of Business of Fashion, Dazed, ID, F*cking Young Magazine and more.
The label combines and contrasts modern silhouettes with ethnic elements, which continues the fusion and clash of minimalist lines and embellishes the craftsmanship of Zhuang patchworks with zero-waste cutting techniques.
Throughout the SS23 collection, the brand also makes use of and references the quilting techniques of ragged monk clothing, translated through reworked stock products and recycled items.
Designers Lai and Christine take their own life experiences and fuse these with elements of contemporary sports aesthetics, MTG’s garments are not bound by external forms or rigid but crafted with the notion of inclusivity. The brand adopts the combination of high-end functional fabrics and renewable materials, seeking to achieve more development and breakthroughs on the different levels of fashion’s sustainable development.
Their approach to sustainability has in fact become the talk of China’s fashion town.
The Magunje Minutiae
Daniel Magunje, founder of Hangzhou-based Sino-African consulting agency Feiyu Management, had a FROW seat to the label’s SS23 show during Shanghai Fashion Week’s LABELHOOD showcase on September 27 and got the opportunity to get up close and personal with the designs on display. He also has a penchant for everything fashionably sustainable.
“This is a young brand that is taking lessons from Chinese culture to pave the way for a new circular fashion philosophy technique derived from ancient history, concepts of ecology [avant-la-lettre],” Magunje told Temper.
Circular fashion is a system where clothing and personal belongings are produced through a more considered model: where the production of an item and the end of its life are equally as important. This system considers materials and production thoughtfully, emphasizing the value of utilizing a product right to the end, then going one step further and repurposing it into something else. The focus is on the longevity and life cycle of possessions, including designing out waste and pollution. #TemperTeachings
“When a brand uses terms like ‘circularity,’ this can very often lead to ‘greenwashing.’ MTG has mapped out how to wholly and honestly approach circularity because for these guys it’s about cultural references; a very subtle approach to sustainability,” Magunje elaborated, adding he’s very optimistic about this brand’s next steps.
The green focus is something the Zhuang and their Floral Goddess would certainly appreciate.
ALL IMAGES COME COURTESY OF MTG
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