“I wanted the brand to be a mix of masculinity and femininity, a gender-fluid collection that embraces the yin-yang balance.”
Naarm-based designer Minming Zhou has dreamt of running her own fashion label for as long as she can remember, but it was noticing the lack of exciting genderless options in the fashion space that prompted her to launch her eponymous label.
Minming takes an innovative approach to her androgynous designs. Inspired by futurism, she utilises new technology to bring her alien-like pieces to life – both in the physical realm and the digital world.
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Rather than cloaking the body in oversized styles that seek to disguise, Minming Zhou’s collection infuses masculine and feminine elements to allow for expression and experimentation.
Tell us about you. What’s your fashion/jewellery background?
My name is Minming. You can also call me Eva. I am 24 years old. I recently graduated from RMIT University with a Master’s in Fashion Entrepreneurship. I previously studied a Bachelor of Fashion Design where I practised traditional fashion design as well as 3D fashion and 3D jewellery design. I have worked as a stylist, creative director, and worked in sales for luxury fashion brands.
How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.
This is going to sound cliche, but I’ve always wanted to start my own label since I was a kid. I remember writing a letter to myself in Year 10 class, and I wrote to myself, “Dear future Minming, I hope you’ve already started your own fashion label when you open this letter again.”
However, I felt officially prepared to begin this label three months ago when I had the opportunity to use it as a university assessment. It was also a journey of discovering my own style, where I began experimenting with menswear mixing with womenswear and eventually implemented this idea in my design. At first, I felt awkward shopping in the menswear section and when I interviewed my friends, they shared the same struggle. Whether shopping in a hyper-feminine store or facing judgement when dressing in an ‘androgynous’ manner. That is what lead me to envision a brand that is exclusive to those who value experimentation.
My creative process is based on people’s stories, my own experiences, and the cultural environment we live in; I reimagine these topics in a universe I created full of alien-like creatures, and I withdraw these ideas into a sculpture in the form of fashion. The difficult part is bringing these ideas to life, especially the technical part, and sourcing and designing them with a well-considered, environmentally-friendly approach.
What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?
At first, I just wanted to create a wardrobe of what I would wear because when I go shopping, there is always something I want to change. Especially nowadays, when a lot of ‘gender-neutral’ brands or collections are really just oversized jumpers – I feel like it defeats the purpose of gender fluidity because gender neutrality is about easing the differences rather than covering them up.
As I met more like-minded people, I realised I wanted the brand to be a mix of masculinity and femininity, a gender-fluid collection that embraces the yin-yang balance and acceptance, welcoming all to express their unique identity. I would like to include digital fashion as a product category in the future, while the physical collection can be a natural extension of the metaverse.
How would you describe Minming Zhou to someone who’s never seen it before?
Minming Zhou is a Melbourne-based gender-fluid brand dedicated to developing size-flexible garments for they/them, he/him, and she/her. Minming Zhou sees itself as a metaverse agency because it is influenced by futurism and uses technology. Its collections include both digital fashion and wearables.
Where did the name come from?
Minming Zhou (珉名) is my Chinese name, which I used to be very self-conscious about because I was frequently mistaken for a boy due to the writing and pronunciation being very masculine. Another reason I was not proud of my Chinese name was that kids in high school would make fun of how Minming sounds similar to Ling-Ling — a common racist term — so I often introduced myself as Eva rather than Minming.
However, as I grew up, I eventually realised that this identity was a gift from my family’s elders, who wanted me to imagine and think freely with no limits while remaining strong like a boy, so I want that androgynous spirit to remain as the core DNA of my brand. Now I see Minming Zhou as my alter ego, the villain version of Eva, where I can be crazier, more confident, and more true to myself.
What are you most proud of in your work on your label?
Doing everything myself, from designing to sewing to marketing, makes me feel like a superwoman. My label is still a work in progress, and I plan to incorporate the digital fashion aspect into my work much more in the future.
What do you wish you knew when you started?
I wish I knew more about marketing and the logistical things and, most importantly, how to be financially smart haha.
Who do you think is most exciting in Australian fashion right now?
The most exciting thing is to see local designers blossom in their own way. More attention is being paid to up-and-coming fashion designers. And most importantly, more environmentally and socially responsible onshore production.
On the other hand, there are more people appreciating independent brands and consumers appear to be more adventurous in their clothing choices. The younger generation is so confident in expressing their individuality.
What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?
There should be less greenwashing of fast fashion and more environmental education to help consumers realise that they don’t need to buy new clothes every week and then throw them away after wearing them just a handful of times. And less over-consumption.
Dream Australian collaborators?
My dream Australian collaborator is Sabatucci who has insane style and Dion Lee, but I am definitely looking forward to doing more cross-industry collaborations with other artists because I am also into furniture design.
Go-to dinner party playlist?
I like very mellow styles with a mix of alternative R&B and techno. My current dinner party playlist has ‘Jealous’ by Khamari, Criminal Manne, ‘Ring Ring’ by Sik-K, ‘Home’ by Dylan Sinclair, but there is this artist called Hellvis I am obsessed with at the moment which is not mellow at all but fulfils the villainess of my alter ego.
Who is in your wardrobe right now?
I recently decluttered heaps of clothes when I moved, now the core value of my wardrobe is, ‘buy less, buy good’. At the moment, my wardrobe has nice quality basic staples, such as a Y/Project men’s wool coat that will last me forever, and a Balenciaga leather biker jacket that does not go out of trend. For me, it’s not about the designer names, it’s more I appreciated these pieces and I will still wear them in 20 years.
How can we buy one of your pieces?
Shop Minming Zhou here.