Inside the Refuse Club SS20 Collection at NYFW

Tony Bowles
Sep 12 · 2 min read

Refuse Club SS20 Collection is inspired by young people from Chinese small towns and villages, by their fashion style and online subcultural presence. We find their fashion energy unique and fun. With no intention to criticize anyone by reinterpreting their style, the collection is a sarcastic joke, a gesture of saying,“Look at how ridiculous the outfit is, and we refuse to change it.”

Launched by Parsons grads Yuner Shao and “Stef” Puzhen Zhou, Refuse Club was launched as a commentary on the #MeToo movement, which never took off in China. The hashtag was banned from Chinese social network site Weibo shortly after it began trending. Although they live in the U.S., Zhou and Shao were determined to address the #MeToo taboo in China on another platform and launched Refuse Club. The brand gets its name from the “Salon des Refusés,” a mid-19th century exhibition in Paris which showcased paintings that were rejected for being too scandalous by the official Paris Salon.

Shao and Zhou hail from Chongqing, China, but met in New York during their freshman year at Parsons. Both went on to pursue screen printing — Zhou was first introduced to the process during a summer program at Central Saint Martins, whereas Shao was self-taught — and fell in love with the technique.

Just as the Salon des Refusés upended cultural conventions in France, Zhou and Shao hope to challenge social mores through Refuse Club. The brand is also a platform for community and a display of solidarity with #MeToo victims in China, where conversations about sexual harassment and assault are more likely to be silenced or ignored than in the U.S and other liberal states.

Many looks incorporate Chinese silk brocade and Western suit textiles, such as wool and satin, which are produced in Zhou and Shao’s native Chongqing. Once famous for its prominent ramie linen and embroidery exportation, Chongqing’s textile industry is now dying out. The collection references other Eastern narratives with pieces like the qipao, a traditional loose-fitting dress designed to conceal underlying eroticism.

Tony Bowles

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Anthony Bowles is one of the youngest sought out journalists in the media world. He has had the privilege of interviewing today’s most well-known celebrities.

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