Homegrown fashion institution Charles & Keith has had their finger on the pulse of all things buzzy. Fashion aficionados might remember the accessories giant’s collaboration with Danish design darling Cecile Bahnsen just last year, which offered up a whimsical selection of quilted and satin mules. This year, Charles & Keith has tapped young Shanghainese label Shushu/Tong for the brand’s first capsule collaboration ever.
Helmed by designer duo and London College of Fashion alumnus Liushu Lei and Yutong Jiang, Shushu/Tong has won over fans like Gemma Chan and Alexa Chung. And it’s no wonder. Describing their fare as “girly with a touch of individuality”, the label has established a niche in the fashion world, becoming almost instantly recognisable by details such as ruching, voluminous silhouettes and structural embellishments.
Some of these cornerstones find themselves in the brand’s collaboration with Charles & Keith, which sees a line-up of four accessories: statement-making Mary Jane pumps as well as delicate top handle bags adorned with large roses, both of which come in black and red. With the collection launched in stores and online on 11 January, you can now get your hands on the coveted items.
Here, Lei and Jiang let us in on the beginnings of their label, the significance of their collaboration with Charles & Keith as well as what’s in store for them next.
Tell us about the beginnings of Shushu/Tong. How did the label come to be?
We established Shushu/Tong in 2015 because we are really good friends and share a similar background. Besides, we have the same aesthetic taste, so starting the brand was a matter of course.
How has your brand has developed over the years?
In addition to designing and launching our seasonal collections, we have also been exploring new sales and marketing channels online. At the same time, we are working on new product categories, such as women’s bags and shoes. The fashion industry is very fast-paced and ever-changing. Our development is, of course, not without the help of many others.
You have both worked at labels like Simone Rocha and Gareth Pugh. Has this informed how you design today?
During our internship, we picked up some basics about how brands operate, how designers work and so on. These were useful and valuable learning points as we had no entrepreneurial experience at that time.
How would you describe the quintessential Shushu/Tong wearer?
She wears miniskirts and Mary Jane shoes.
How would you describe the Shushu/Tong and Charles & Keith collaboration? Talk us through the design process.
We knew that Charles & Keith had a great global reputation as a footwear and accessories brand. They gave us plenty of space to exercise our creativity during the collaboration process and supported our ideas throughout the development of the product. The Charles & Keith design team showed their professionalism and expertise as we worked closely together to translate our creative vision and perfect the designs.
Our hard work resulted in this capsule collection of four thoughtfully-crafted products that we are excited to finally present to everyone. The creative chemistry between our teams made this whole process nothing but beautiful.
Roses were a big motif of this collection and have inspired both the colours and shapes of the products. Tell us more.
We’ve always liked incorporating elements of flowers into our designs. They pop up in our collections from time to time. The flower itself is symbolic of girlhood. We were inspired by Cardcaptor Sakura, a manga series from our childhood about a magical girl. The pages of the manga had many floral details.
Can you share more about the creative process of the designs and the choice of materials used?
During the design process, we reviewed the materials suitability and decided on patent leather and satin fabrics, which we felt were the most suitable for our collection’s overarching theme. The reflective sheen of the materials gives the designs a slight edgy feel, hinting at the mood we wanted to evoke.
How did you present the DNA of Shushu/Tong in this collection?
We used flowers and bows, which are recurring motifs we’ve employed in our previous collections. The rose takes center stage in this capsule—its beauty, prickly complexity and uniqueness are part of the Shushu/Tong design DNA.
What is special about this capsule collection?
We chose styles and shapes that we felt were most suitable and complementary to the rose, which is the capsule’s muse. Be it a Shushu/Tong or Charles & Keith friend or fan, we hope one will be empowered while discovering a different facet of their identity when they wear the collection pieces.
And finally, what’s next?
We do not have a clear three or five year plan laid out. Our current strategies are to do the next seasonal collection well and grow the brand steadily.