NEW YORK – Babyghost, the cult favourite, forward-thinking fashion brand with ties to two continents, knows no borders. Since starting their line, founders Josh Hupper and Qiaoran Huang have traveled between and drawn inspiration from their respective countries, creating clothing with a distinctly contemporary, urban take on the idea of "East meets West." Ahead of Sotheby's S|2 selling exhibition The Literati Within, which also celebrates the conversation between Western and Chinese aesthetics, we asked both designers about the influence of their hometowns, the Beijing gallery you can't miss and the S|2 pieces they would love to take home.
PHOTO: MONICA FEUDI.
How has being a bi-continental brand influenced your aesthetic?
Josh Hupper: We’re constantly traveling and exchanging – that’s what drives our creative process. Because we split up our time by spending three months in New York and then three months in China, we essentially live in both places. They both feel like dreams. Personally I learn new things whenever I go back to China. It’s extremely inspiring because it’s growing so quickly. There’s a crazy fact I can’t get out of my head that China has used more concrete in the last few years than the United States used in the last century. Cities are sprouting up everywhere.
It’s also interesting that coming from different backgrounds, you get to experience the inspiration from two perspectives.
JH: Totally. Ran was born in Weifang and I’m from Columbus, Ohio – which in its own way is kind of like Weifang, because they are relatively small cities. We both moved to New York.
Qiaoran Huang: In New York, people come from everywhere. We really feel like it’s our hometown and that we built our brand here on the Lower East Side.
PHOTO: MONICA FEUDI.
How do you funnel the influence from Chinese and American cultures into fashion?
QH: I think it happens really organically. Whenever we discover our inspiration, it’s almost like writing a diary – we just experience it around us. We learn from people and the environment we’re in. Because we grew up and travel in both the United States and China, it seems really natural that the cultures mix together in our designs. We never really think, “Oh this is from China, this is from the U.S.”
What was your inspiration behind the fall 2016 collection?
JH: Ran and I both saw an incredible show called Open Your Eyes by the artist Kader Attia at M Woods, a private museum in Beijing. It’s like a slideshow with one side showing wounded WWI veterans and the other side showing broken African masks and pottery that have been repaired. That led to us looking into jin sha, a Chinese method of repairing broken jade with gold. Both are about reconstruction.
PHOTO: MONICA FEUDI.
The dialogue between Chinese and Western aesthetics has become a popular topic in art as well as fashion – do you see that relationship evolving?
JH: The recent Chinese fashion exhibit at The Costume Institute in New York showed a lot about how China inspires the West with their history and culture. I would say that in five years China could be a place that people look to, in the same way they do to New York and Paris, for inspiration and for what’s happening in youth culture. That’s a big shift.
QH: I totally agree. The youth culture in China is so powerful right now. Compared to my parents’ generation and the people who experienced the Cultural Revolution, my generation is so different. Our kids will be even more so. There are a ton of new brands on the rise in China – and all the designers are really young.
You see a lot of young Chinese artists becoming more known on an international scale, too. Are there any you would want to collaborate with?
JH: Han Bing and Bodu Yang are amazing. We’ve known them for a long time. They both work through the M Woods gallery I mentioned, which has a great collection. One of the owners, Wanwan Lei, was originally a model for one of the biggest Chinese painters Liu Ye. Art is our go-to for inspiration.
QH: We also go to the Met every season before we begin a collection, even before we know what we doing. That's where we like to begin. You can never see everything there.