The concept of the real and the virtual – and the way those two entities interact – has been present in Chinese philosophy for many centuries; long preceding the advent of comparatively very new technologies like the Metaverse. In fact, the idea of the ‘real’ external world and the ‘virtual’ internal world of your mind, and the interplay between those two realities, has been instrumental in shaping both artistic thought and expression in China.

And it’s this that underpins Feng Chen Wang’s Metaverse fashion show, presented as part of Shanghai Fashion Week and created with support from the virtual-reality innovation centre Inert Plan. In this show, Feng, who was born in Fujian and is now based between Shanghai and London, invites us on a journey into her virtual world – in the literal contemporary sense, and in the older philosophical one.

Made to measure, the clothes in this collection are seasonless, featuring both real and virtual designs that exist and don’t yet exist. The collection is linked to the designer’s Autumn/Winter 2022 offering, presented as part of London Fashion Week in February of this year, but also extends to more futuristic and sustainable made-to-measure collection.

It features eight looks in total, all of which are totally virtual. From avant-garde tailoring for men, to expansive, expressive womenswear looks, these designs pay homage to the wild imagination and free-flowing creativity of Feng. Boasting an interplay of colours and textures, they are accompanied by deconstructed hats and off-kilter bags and customised embellished Nike Air Force 1 and Nike Air Force 1 PLT.AF.ORM sneakers.

It’s not just the clothes and accessories that are virtual, the models, hair and make-up are too – even the set design is virtual, featuring three art installations created by Wang herself specially for this show. One of these installations takes the form of a phoenix and looks like it has been constructed using Nike’s Grind recycled material. This demonstrates Feng’s mission and vision not only as a fashion designer but also as a creative artist.

Bamboo – now a Feng Chen Wang signature – is present in the second art installation and in the collection via bamboo bags. Meanwhile the third installation references emerald-green bodiless lacquerware, a traditional craft, which formed a key inspiration for Wang’s Autumn/ Winter 2022 collection. The galaxy-like appearance of this virtual lacquerware pattern produces an almost psychedelic effect.

The clothes themselves take inspiration from the haute-couture model; tailored pieces which are unique and bespoke for each client. This approach represents a renewed focus on sustainability – something that is also reflected in the fabrication of the pieces, the use of plant dyes, and the fact that the designs can be worn in multiple ways, depending on the weather and occasion.

The focus on sustainability and the show’s setting in the Metaverse reflects Feng’s forward- thinking approach, which places innovation at the heart of her designs. In this show, we are hit by the force of her creativity and confronted with the wilderness of her imagination.