For David Zhao, the process started in the painting. “At the time, I was looking into a lot of landscape art, feeling particularly drawn to the lens of surrealist and dystopian landscape art,” he says. His collection TERRAR SUBTERRANA. UNEARTHLY RUPTURE! SKIRMISH! INCARNATE! is a modern translation of apocalyptic landscapes depicting our dark reality. Drawing from surrealism references, the designer did not only create a world of his own, but he is also now inviting everyone to find themselves in it. “For this collection, I’ve made around 12 looks in total. I worked with a lot of different mediums,” he says. Inspired by a series of worldly and unworldly artefacts, the designer felt drawn to the usage of 3D printing, exotic and sustainable leather whilst keeping his innovative construction techniques at a high standard. “Every look represents a certain fragment of contemporary technological and historical phenomenon.” One of the main inspirations for the collection was the dragon scales from the Song Dynasty painting “The Nine Dragons Scroll of Chen Rong” from the 12th century. “It has a very long scroll of around 11 meters, and it shows a very dystopian language of dragons. It’s really apocalyptic. Many of the silhouettes and materials reflect the paintings I looked at. For example, looking at the painting with the dragons, I started looking into fish leather”, he says. Throughout developing his collection, the designer kept questioning the state of vulnerability in the fashion industry. His intrigued mind pushed him into new spheres, by collaborating with ICTYOS for sustainable Fish skin, Desserto for sustainable leather and Siyu Wu, a 3D artist. Dyed with sunstrokes, the designer reflected the effects of climate change on a deep level not only in the outlook of his garments. “In hindsight, my story is still very much based on prospective pessimism surrounding societal imbalance and the worldly overview of humanity. The collection hints at the situation with climate change, sustainability, and technology in the grey zone. It promotes wellness, but also excretes caution.” In his world, imagery of subterranean black rivers meets flaming white mountains, ashen mist under unearthly hanging gardens. Stepping in from outer space, he wants his collection to be a hieroglyphic time capsule for aliens that may descend on the earth one day.