The French-Malian pair Zhen and Mossi created quite a stir when they showcased for the first time at Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2014. In an exclusive interview with The Luxury Chronicle the duo talk about their work, inspiration and future plans.
How did you team up even though you are from two different countries and cultures?
We met in 2005 at Mod’Art International in Paris. At the end of our studies, we had our own projects but our involvement with each other’s undertakings continued. A strong friendship was born and from it, the desire to create a brand together. To begin with, my idea was to create a brand involving a multicultural team of designers, the dream endured and Zhen & Mossi was born.
How different are your collections from other designers?
First, we are the only French-Sino-African designer duo which makes us quite different from other designers. We are both very different people and yet we complement each other perfectly. I am Franco-Malian and very creative, which earned me the nickname of “The Mad Pirate”. Zhen is Chinese, she is calm, composed and has the deft touch of a fairy. As a result, we have two distinct sources of inspiration and very different views of Fashion. This duality is reflected in our collections, Chic and Shock, Modern and Deconstructed all at the same time.
Second, we are always on the lookout for new and fresh techniques; embroidery patterns, stones, minerals, pleats arranged in all sorts of shapes and forms, jewelry brooches both removable and fixed.
Third, our brand is an Artistic brand, and we are committed to welcoming and encouraging artists. We draw inspiration from artists with rich and diverse backgrounds, from painters to musicians, dancers to actors. Our fashion shows bring together all these art forms along with fashion to create an engaging, diverse and dynamic spectacle, which also serves as a platform for up and coming talent.
Zhen & Mossi is a creative workshop built around four words, Art, Fashion, Craftsmanship and the World.
What have been your inspirations so far?
The sources of our inspiration have up until now, come from India (for embroidery, Bollywood movies and the Sari), China (for craftsmanship) and Japan (for Manga).
You are inspired by India a lot. Why is that?
In collection “Indian Virgin” in 2011 and “Mummies of the Ganges” in 2012, Indian film stars are muses of sorts and Mossi has grown up on Bollywood cinema. He has seen more than 200 Bollywood productions! In a creative perspective, we have the prospect of reinventing the sari with a Zhen & Mossi touch. The Indian Woman is a perpetual source of inspiration for the duo.
Where do you retail your garments?
Today we are present in 2 stores in France and 1 in Kazakhstan. Our creations are sold by “ L’Exception “, a well-known and high-end online retailer. At present, we are very excited to showcase our talent, to tell our story and to show the world our perspective of fashion. We are quite keen on promoting our brand in France and across the world. We may focus on Middle East and Russia but India will of course remain our favorite destination and we just can’t wait to dress Bollywood stars in our creations!
How have your collections changed since 2005 when you started?
We started our collection in 2011. Since then, we have met many people and travelled far and wide, which has only made our work richer and increased in quality.
How do you divide your creative work?
Zhen & Mossi work in complete synergy. The duo functions as one and that is what adds to the distinctiveness of their art. Our collections are a reflection of our symbiosis. Our agreements and disagreements contribute to each collection.
You have three stores in France and one in Kazakhstan. Why the latter?
During the fashion week in Paris, we met with the owner of a store in Kazakhstan and it instantly clicked. We had a good feeling about it.
Why don’t you retail in USA and rest of Europe or Far East since Zhen is from China?
We are planning to do it. We have a huge development plan slated for launch in 2015.
Which have been your most memorable collections?
“Les Momies du Gange” in 2011 and “Poésie d’une Larme” that we are currently presenting at Lakmé Fashion Week.
Any plans to retail in India?
We were very surprised by the warm welcome of our collection in India. Many celebrities have agreed to attend our show. Thanks to this, we are quite confident about the future and we hope very soon to be able to create a line of the Sari revisited by Zhen & Mossi.
What do you think of Indian fashion?
We find the diversity in terms of process and materials available in India fascinating. Zhen is a big fan of Indian embroidery. We would love to contribute to the propagation of fashion in the Indian market by bringing our talent together with the traditional set-up.
What do you think of LFW how does it compare with other fashion weeks around the world?
Despite the smaller scale of LFW when compared to fashion weeks in Paris, New York or Milan, LFW offers immense visibility and a great chance to meet Bollywood celebrities. As for the question of image and reputation, we are very pleasantly surprised.
What are the fabrics that you like to use?
We love using natural fabrics (silk, velvet, and leather), triacetate for pleated creations and lace.
Is there too much competition in Europe when it comes to fashion?
International competition in Paris is quite fierce, but this only adds to the appeal and the identity. One must stand out and be audacious. That is why we have always had our shows at unusual venues like the Saint Pierre Church or the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. In 2012, we took up and trounced the challenge of putting on a fashion show on the Avenue Montaigne, one of Paris’ most expensive, selective streets and probably well-known streets in the world.
Which have been your most memorable shows?
The “ Momies du Gange” collection, first shown at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery which received high praise from fashion media (Vanity Fair, Vogue US…). “Poetry of a Tear”, the collection shown at LFW Summer/Resort 2014 is also a landmark for us, being the materialization of a dream we have had since we were students.
What is the inspiration of your collection at LFW and what are the designs like?
The white color is dominant for its fluidity and romanticism. Our identity, based on duality, is also white for summer, black for winter. Our prints get their inspiration from the under sea life because we believe undersea is composed of rich and colorful treasure.
What are your future plans for the label?
We are planning to develop and promote the brand internationally.
Have you seen the collections of Indian designers and what do you like about their work?
We really like the Sari; it’s a symbol of elegance and femininity. We would like to design a special line of sari in the future, revisited by Zhen & Mossi.
How different is fashion in France from that in India?
From what we saw so far and during the Lakmé Fashion Week, the craftsmanship is really interesting and Indian designers have a rich savoir-faire. The traditional style remains an important source of inspiration with some European touch among emerging designers.