Femininity, as it is expressed so often in fashion, is abstracted from motifs of girlhood. Think ladylike, smocking textures, schoolgirl silhouettes, wistful, rosy palettes– all of the minutiae of youth furnish the feminine archetype and have almost become inseparable from the term “womanhood.” Designers and co-founders of SHUSHU/TONG, Liushu Lei and Yutong Jiang are no strangers to this gravitational pull of girlishness within the realm of womenswear: the Shanghai-based brand is widely known (and widely celebrated!) for its proudly romantic, gamine aesthetics.
This season, however, Lei and Jiang are exonerating their expression of femininity from its roots in girlhood. The SHUSHU/TONG SS24 lookbook emerges from a singular photograph: Helmut Newton’s work, “Big Nude.” In case you haven’t seen it, the work depicts a woman, completely naked except for high-heeled pumps, staring directly at the camera. Mired in honesty, in power that doesn’t shy away from itself, the femininity “Big Nude” exudes is distinctly womanlike. Unpretentious and expectant, “Big Nude” is powerful. It is this sort of feminine power–mature, bold, explosive–that Jiang and Lei manifest in the SHUSHU/TONG SS24 collection, “THE NUDE.”
Liushu Lei and Yutong Jiang have known each other since high school, after which they both attended the London College of Fashion. They co- founded their sensational brand in 2015, and quickly garnered an international fanbase due to their acute ability to conceptualize the modern feminine through creative, flattering pieces. “THE NUDE” collection adds a new, solemn dimension to their already popular oeuvre: Hand-embroidered lace clings to mature features– tighter, dignified fabrics highlight the texture of the skin, accentuate the proportions of the waist, showcase the musculature of the legs.
Bow elements are reimagined in different proportions, showcasing their capacities to serve as vessels of maturity rather than signifiers of youth. Visible bras, garters, and underwear unflinchingly confront sensuality as it’s tied to womanhood, affirming the power of the developed and unabashed body. FLAUNT sat down with Jiang and Lei to talk about “THE NUDE,” the relationship between garments and invincibility, and their plans for the future of the brand:
Tell us about the inspiration for FW23? Were there definitive examples (films, music, current events?) that informed it, or is it more abstract?
Our inspiration was ‘The Backrooms’, which originated from a creepy photo posted on an online thread in 2019, where netizens exchange eerie photos that are captured quite randomly. ‘Backrooms’ strike the impression of an altered state of reality intercepted by a technical bug. Inspired by the Backrooms, we wanted to present a certain atmosphere of oppressiveness; the clothes of this collection delineate this narrative to reflect an intricate aura of uniform.
What about the current state of 'femininity' is exciting to you?
The idea of being beautiful (in various ways – external, internal, how you dress, how you act, how you support, how you love) and powerful at the same time. I love that combination!
What are the ideal conditions, be they personal or environmental, for strong design execution?
I don’t think the perfect conditions exist, particularly when we are discussing design. As long as you have the passion and the excitement then you can overcome whatever conditions you are facing. I actually believe that difficulties can sometimes make better outcomes too…
When do you feel the most invincible?
I love the excitement at the very beginning of a new collection; when we’re in the first week of the designing process, I always feel very confident and excited about what we are going to do for the next season ahead. Of course, problems always arise soon after, but that first week the possibilities really are endless!
How do you define the concept of cool in 2023?
I think people try too hard to be cool – just relax and be yourself and that’s the coolest you can be.
What are you looking forward to?
Now the reoccurring lockdowns are finally finished in China, we can travel again and meet our clients, our buyers, our external teams, that makes me excited for a successful SS24 season.
How about your new SS24 collection, which you just debuted?
We got the inspiration from Helmut Newton's iconic photographic work, "Big Nude." This collection explores how garments and the female body can harmoniously work together to express female power. We used a lot of lightweight and soft fabrics, something we haven’t really done before.