This Unisex Brand Gives Social Commentary a Stylish Spin

This Unisex Brand Gives Social Commentary a Stylish Spin

Distilling a time and place into a collection is no easy feat. While overt interpretations of an inspiring decade may read as unskillful, not committing to references conveys a lack of confidence. Somehow, Chenghui Zhang and Qi Wang, the Parsons School of Design graduates behind budding unisex label Social-Work Studio have seamlessly fused two social movements from the '60s into a decisive debut collection.

Shown in a Garment District factory where the New York-based label's samples are produced, the duo's spring 2019 collection simultaneously reflects the freedom of American '60s counterculture movements and conformity of China's Great Cultural Revolution. Awash in industrial fluorescent light and warped in the dense, humid summer air, a lineup of boxy cotton shirting, plaid jackets and trousers, and denim skirts and overalls rooted in Chinese workwear marched through the facility.

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Punches of poppy red, lemon yellow, and bright green nod to the West's Youthquake phenomenon animating the collection's flared and angular cuts. Subtle details including prints of "doublespeak" words like "goodthinker" from George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 and a blue neckerchief that alludes to scarves worn to school by Chinese children under Mao Zedong's rule round out the collection's authoritarian influences.

Wrapped up in this sociopolitical commentary is the pair's passion for transparency and workers rights. As their brand's name indicates, Zhang and Wang hope to foster a relationship between consumers and garment workers by acknowledging the workers that produce their fledgling label.

Photography: Chris & Jonathan Schoonover