Demon Zhang, founder and chief designer of Chinese womenswear brand Mithridate, which shows at London Fashion Week, tells Drapers how the business coped with the Covid-19 outbreak and how it is getting back to work.
A few months ago the world had to slow down because of the coronavirus pandemic, and we all had to adapt to new routines and working patterns, and completely readjust our mindsets. For me this was a great challenge, because I’m used to being surrounded by my team, and I love working with people.
What was crucial for me was to create a new pattern of living and creating at home. I used much of my time to do drawing, and focused on design sketches, thinking about how I could apply them in my work after the lockdown. For me mentally, it was really important to continue planning, as much or little ahead as I could.
I continued working closely with our ready-to-wear department, experimenting and developing new craft techniques. We used the lockdown time to really develop a wide range of options for each look. Exploring fabrics, patterns and structures kept my creative focus.
During the self-quarantine period in China from January until late March, I couldn’t take my studio with me, so all the large-scale sewing was suspended, and I focused on drawing patterns and flowers at home.
As the production of our shoots and fashion show was in the UK, we moved from live participation to remote control.
The most valuable learning curve for me was a new work routine and adjusting my focus according to the actual situation daily. I worked with my partners on the other side of the world to bring the new season to a successful completion on 16 February.
Despite the disruption, we managed to send the collection to be shown in London in February before the lockdown in the UK. (London Fashion Week took place on 13-18 February.)
Of course, it all felt very scary back then, but it was also a time of great courage and community support, because we were all in this together and helped each other.
Maintaining a stable cashflow as much as possible and having a strong creative team are particularly important during these testing times. Appropriate reduction of unnecessary research and development costs must be considered before developing the designs in the collection, as well as allowing sufficient time for logistics because of courier delays.
Instead of buying new fabrics, we decided to create new designs by processing our current stock fabrics and using existing materials, which is part of our sustainability approach.
As consumption habits and demand have changed, our approach to fashion has evolved. Moving forward, designs will be re-evaluated to create lasting, timeless pieces that go beyond the traditional seasons.
During the lockdown it was particularly important to maintain a strong, united and professional team. They all make the outcome of our work unique, and together we are stronger.