Ulio Explores Sustainability With Star-studded Show in Shanghai

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SHANGHAI — For Dan Cui, former GQ China fashion director, to help the general public understand fashion sustainability means using star power.

At “Ulio: The Sustainable Fashion Exhibition,” organized by Cui’s fashion sustainability platform CanU, visitors can see and touch unique items from fashion brands and Chinese celebrities.

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Dries Van Noten, Lanvin, Uma Wang, longtime Chanel ambassador Zhou Xun, model Liu Wen and actor Boran Jin all contributed pieces to the section of the exhibition called “Can You Recall?” Items include Zhou’s first Chanel suit, Liu’s first evening dress from Alexander Wang and a piece gifted by Nicolas Ghesquière during his tenure at Balenciaga.

Lanvin archival pieces designed by Alber Elbaz. - Credit: Courtesy
Lanvin archival pieces designed by Alber Elbaz. - Credit: Courtesy

Courtesy

“It’s about creating an emotional connection with pieces from our friends’ personal collections. It’s also meant to help us rethink the lifespan and the second life of a piece of clothing,” Cui said.

Cui wants to build a sustainability platform with mass appeal, which means a visually exciting exhibition that welcomes touch. He is also thinking about shoppable features.

According to Cui, “Can You Recall?” plans to go on tour in the future, and celebrity pieces might be auctioned off as well.

Set at the Spanish-style garden residence that houses the Shanghai Animation Film Studio, the exhibition is split into three sections, 12 thematic spaces to explore sustainability via the lenses of the humanities, culture, art, science and technology.

Cui said it was Shanghai Fashion Week doyenne Lv Xiaolei, widely known as Madame Lv, who urged him to create an exhibition that could translate sustainability concepts into digestible content for the general public.

“We see ourselves as a media entity in the fashion sustainability space. We want to inspire people; it’s a call to action, and we are open to how CanU will evolve in the future,” Cui said.

A dining room table-themed space is devoted to exploring upcycling in fashion. Local fashion creatives such as hairstylist Xueming Zhou, makeup artist Yooyo Keong Ming and Valentina Li, as well as Chinese fashion designer brands such as Pronounce and SansPeng created art objects for the section, using found objects or wastes.

A dining room table-themed space is devoted to exploring upcycling in fashion. - Credit: Courtesy
A dining room table-themed space is devoted to exploring upcycling in fashion. - Credit: Courtesy

Courtesy

“We start from the concept ‘Everything is beautiful,'” said CanU creative director Monica Mong. “I think most of the creators we worked with were outsiders to the concept of sustainability before this, but it was like shooting a fashion feature, and we managed to bring fashion sustainability down to earth.”

The latter half of the collection showcases sustainable new materials and futuristic design ideas. Artists and designers such as BUJ Studio, Celia Ju, Gao Ying, Peelsphere and Wearable Media created pieces for the section.

“We wanted to explore fashion in the face of social and environmental changes. The artists and designers resonate with us on both the aesthetic and conceptual level,” said Yidi Chen, an independent sustainability content strategist, who curated the future-focused section of the show.

Works by BUJ Studio. - Credit: Courtesy
Works by BUJ Studio. - Credit: Courtesy

Courtesy

A viewing room dedicated to works by Paris-based design studio About a Worker adds a global perspective to the show. The studio invited fashion factory workers to design their own uniforms to explore the relationship between factory workers, manufacturers, designers and consumers.

Photo Beach Chairs by photographer Feng Li. - Credit: Courtesy
Photo Beach Chairs by photographer Feng Li. - Credit: Courtesy

Courtesy

An art installation by Feng Li, who has previously worked with Louis Vuitton, concludes the show on a lighthearted note. Li erected 53 beach chairs featuring recent works in the garden, inviting visitors to engage or even take one home.

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