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The Temper Fact Checker presents the 5W flashcards of our most titillating and savory ones sauntering through the China Fashion scene, one brand or designer at a time. 5W, you ask? “Who, What, When, Where, Why,” we say. Come hither, Penultimate. Check!

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Who?

Designer Xiang Gao deconstructs and reconstructs old-fashioned patterns from West to East.

Gao grew up in Guangzhou, in a family of clothing manufacturers. With her very own Penultimate, “second to last,” Gao hybridizes two approaches: design as a sort of drawing, but it manifesting itself more as a collage — drawing with imagery rather than a pencil.

Penultimate SS21. Top secret.

Penultimate SS21. Top secret.

What?

Developing her nonchalantly-slouched silhouettes, Gao fits her toiles on differently sized and gendered bodies. As for materiality, she eschews the traditional knitwear process, wherein the designer machine-knits panels of fabric to scale and then assembles the garment without any cutting. Many of the details — crocheted red dots or moments of top-stitching — are artisanal creations by the hand of Goa herself.

Gao’s meticulous eye for detail pushes her pieces into the realm of fine art; her response to the cheaply mass-manufactured streetwear commonly associated with the Middle Kingdom.

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When?

Gao spent four year at New York Parsons’, did a brief stint at Telfar, then continued on for two years at Raf Simons’s Calvin Klein, triggering a soulful evolution, igniting her love for de- and re-construction.

The designer in 2019 founded her own label, unleashing onto editorial pages a first 14-piece unisex collection entitled “Just Weird Clothes.” Tongue-in-cheek: check.

“Just Weird Clothes" look modeled by Tin Gao. Courtesy of Penultimate

“Just Weird Clothes” look modeled by Tin Gao. Courtesy of Penultimate

For her SS20 undertaking, Gao took a leaf out of the Dunhuang cave paintings lookbook. The collection’s hand-painted swirls, marbling, and decorative stitching resemble the cave wall’s water and fire paintings.

creative artist duo Rottingdean Bazaar for the lookbook's art direction, which was photographed by Jacques Habbah.

Penultimate SS20. Art direction by creative artist duo Rottingdean Bazaar; photography by Jacques Habbah.

Her third (AW20) collection, “Good Night, God Bless, Beautiful Boy,” blurred the boundaries of both gender and garment. Part sculpture, part collage, part DYI. Totes do-able.

“Good Night, God Bless, Beautiful Boy,” by Penultimate. Lookbook in colllab with New York-based mixed medium artist David Henry Brown Jr.

“Good Night, God Bless, Beautiful Boy,” by Penultimate. Lookbook in colllab with New York-based mixed medium artist David Henry Brown Jr.

Gao in October 2020 showcased snippets of her upcoming SS21 work at Shanghai Fashion Week’s not SHOWROOM. Tantalizing the Temper eye with elaborate clothing rendered in all types of new traditional borderline cheesy Chinese embroideries and appliqués.

Yep, looks familiar, now doesn’t it. Penultimate SS21. Top secret.

Where?

Gao studied fashion design at the China Academy of Arts before eventually moving to New York to enroll in Parsons’ MFA Fashion Design & Society program, graduating in 2016. But we repeat ourselves.

From Guangzhou province in southern China, to New York City, her body of Penultimate work within three collections (and the fourth one about to be released) already contours the creator’s personal cross-cultural explorations.

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Why?

About cowboys, kisses, and 1970s San Francisco hippies donning ornate Pekingese opera costumes and its mythological phoenixes. Penultimate underscores the beauty of the American immigrant experience, and how the melting pot can still create something spectacular. Spectacular.

 

Let it all melt into the groove via

INSTAGRAM: @_PENULTIMATE_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEATURED IMAGE: PENULTIMATE SS21, by ELSBETH VAN PARIDON
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Elsbeth van Paridon
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