STAFFONLY’s Shimo Zhou and Une Yea are endlessly fascinated with, you guessed it, staff. The menswear label, established in London in 2015 and now based in Shanghai, considers the myriad of places where one would find a staff: backstage at a fashion show, working at a hospital, the mailroom at an office. But rather than endlessly zeroing in on uniforms, the surface level common denominator of a staff, the Chinese designers are more interested in the concept of communal identity. Does what you do define who you are?
This is where their signature sense of humor comes into play. For spring, the designers focused on process, most significantly the procrastination that comes with it, and contextualized their collection around schoolwork. Yea explained that the oversized upside-down pencils and push pins that decorated their show space were “a mood board that shows your working space, maybe it’s virtual or maybe it’s just a notebook.”
The details that make this collection were borrowed from “the marks and habits of the process of working,” as Zhou described them. Is the process of working on something itself an act of procrastination? Not no. You’re not necessarily doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, but you’re doing something. This is the—somewhat nebulous but thought-provoking—cornerstone of this lineup, and it came alive most compellingly in the designers’ interpretations of tailoring decorated by screen prints of painter’s tape outlining seams, the corners of lapels, and the openings of welt pockets. Also fun: cotton separates with grid-like prints, uber-oversized backpacks (for all the work you’ve accumulated by procrastinating), and cartoonish pencil shavings sitting on the vamps of shoes.
Underneath the humorous surface was a sharpened (pun intended) take on today’s creative process: “This collection is about the beauty of the process, but it’s also a response to artificial intelligence,” said Zhou, “people are typing their prompts and getting the images faster, but maybe it’s working too fast.” The gist of it is that when you don’t honor the process—and take the time to procrastinate—you don’t give yourself time to think. “That’s why we want to value the process and to show the audience how the staff works, how we create.” But don’t let STAFFONLY enable you. Procrastinating is part of the process, but not always productive. Case in point, each model walked backwards after moving forward before leaving the runway.