Have you ever realized how many boundaries surround the male figure in the fashion system? The born Chinese, now UK-based duo Dan and Shan, after graduating at Central Saint Martins, have founded the brilliant and brand-new label DANSHAN to explore this undiscovered land and erase the cultural weight of prejudice that heavily burdens men. Coming from a country where these differences are even more pronounced, the designers understand how hard is for men to fight against the archetypal concept about masculinity and all the stereotypes that come along with it. Moreover, Dan’s surreal experience of being raised, socially treated, and considered a boy has allowed her to live personally this tough discrimination.
So the DANSHAN spring-summer 2017 first collection is a hymn to freedom and even fragility, a strong message for men to show their emotions, because they’re nothing else but human beings. The fluidity of cloths, the relaxed shapes and the echoes to the sleepwear with traditional hints highlight the huge range of feelings, thus trying to let the men be vulnerable, caught in an intimate dimension: an intimacy that becomes eventually permitted.
Alberto: Since you both attended the Central Saint Martins College, when did you realize you would have founded a brand together?
Dan & Shan: It has happened naturally, there isn’t really a particular moment that we have decided to choose to work with each other. Only until recently, we have found an area in menswear and a statement we could both strongly relate in a conversation and would like to further explore through launching our menswear label.
A: There’s a deep and emotional inspiration behind your work. How do you both manage to find an agreement when you’re creating?
D&S: We share a similar cultural upbringing, and could pretty much understand and relate to each other’s views and experience. We usually start with an emotion that we both find inspirational. Everything else comes naturally within the frame of the specific emotion. We believe all senses evoke emotions; the fabric we have chosen and the shapes on the body should evoke the emotion we are trying to project.
A: With your brand, you try to redefine the boundaries of sexuality in a stronger way than the current common trend of “gender” in the fashion system. How much Dan’s autobiographical experiences have influenced your first collection?
D&S: We are more open-minded in celebrating the qualities that were missing in others’ eyes. Dan understands how difficult it is to grow up and need to pretend being someone she was not. Most importantly, through her experience, Dan was able to open up to her emotions through fashion and regain the qualities that we very much value and like to celebrate.
A: I’ve read you think the modern man is less emancipated than woman. Why is there such a difference?
D&S: Femininity has evolved so much over the years, but gender equality is not definite. We see female can achieve so much these days without having as much boundaries and the need to fulfill as much expectation as male does. We would want the same for men.
A: How your collection can change this situation?
D&S: We intended to create garments that could trigger unexplored emotions of modern men. We want to celebrate the qualities that are not commonly valued in masculinity. We intend to do this via fabric choices, silhouette, both physicality and the sensuality of our garments, as well as to constantly question what masculinity stands for today.
A: The shapes of your first collection appears to celebrate traditional Chinese garments, even though you both studied in an European environment. How do these two different realities coexist in your work?
D&S: We did not internationally design with traditional Chinese garment as reference. Our research is multi cultural. At end of the day it is very much down to viewer’s interpretation. We live in a time that information is so overloaded which we think there are no separate realities any more.
A: Why has the “pajama style” has been chosen as a main theme of your collection?
D&S: Our intention was to create an atmosphere where men could feel safe and allowed to be vulnerable in order to explore their hidden sensuality that we find nothing is more suitable to take pajamas as our design reference.
A: What are your hopes and dreams for the future of your brand?
D&S: We would like to provide an opportunity and channel for men to enjoy the pleasure of delving into their unexplored emotion and quality.