There are people who've charted their career trajectory since childhood, doing everything it takes with the single-minded goal of achieving their dream. Then there are others who, through serendipity, discover their true passions later in life. For the Singapore-raised, New York-based fashion designer Danica Zheng, it was the latter.
Initially intending to work on a project based on architecture for her A-levels Art thesis, Zheng noticed a classmate working on a fashion-related piece and “thought [it] made a lot of sense to [her]”. However, despite handing in two dresses for her finals, Zheng held off on fully immersing herself in fashion and went on to attend architecture school at the University of Southern California. It did not last long — after a year, she moved across the country to New York to study fashion design at Parsons School of Design.
Rich brocades and jewel-toned furs hint at the source of Zheng's inspiration, a classic Chinese text from the 16th century.
While she was still a student, Zheng interned at Carolina Herrera and Narciso Rodriguez, and landed a job as a designer at Calvin Klein Collection right after graduation. Despite having a job that many would kill for, she quit after a year to launch her own label, Pamplemousse, in 2015. “Working in the industry, there were some things that I felt, both as a designer and a customer, were missing,” she explains. “Pamplemousse was a way to figure out how to fill that void.”
Her first collection, launched in Fall/Winter ’15, was a dreamy assortment of flowy, draped ivory silhouettes. The next season, Pamplemousse debuted on the runway at New York Fashion Week, cementing the label’s whimsical, feminine yet sporty aesthetic that melds relaxed lines with ruffles, print and texture. The fashion week appearance has marked an upward trajectory that has only ascended further: Earlier this year, the brand was picked up for online retail by Net-a-Porter and Shopbop, and was featured as an upcoming “label to watch” in notable digital publications such as Women’s Wear Daily, Fashionista and Who What Wear.
Although the Fall/Winter ’17 collection was inspired by the Chinese fantasy epic “The Journey to the West”, Zheng insists that Pamplemousse is “not just about the Chinese heritage”. Rather, it’s a particular chapter of the classic that resonated with her that led to the concept.
“In one particular episode, the characters travelled to a country where only women lived and ruled,” she explains. “I thought that was really relevant to today, even though it’s a literary work from 16th-century China. So I took from the culture I grew up with, the Chinese motifs, and gave it a modern twist. But Pamplemousse, in general, is a mixture of what makes me who I am today, the places I’ve been to, the environment where I’m living in right now, and what makes me a designer.”
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