Having graduated from Central Saint Martins, Alex Po and Derek Cheng founded PONDER.ER in 2019. In every collection, they find different ways to question gender issues. The Shanghai-based brand has developed a strong focus on work pleats, knitwear and smocks, arriving at pieces that are graphic and visually impactful. In June 2022, they were awarded with the Yu Prize.
Tell us about a concept or idea you have explored this season?
Our SS23 collection “Misfit” is a reaction to the revival of highly popularised American college-style trend during the ’90s and 2000s, which is significant in terms of how the mass media and our society portray and shape masculinity. Throughout the collection, we hope to reinterpret these nostalgic elements from mainstream popular cultures, turning them into garments that represent gender fluidity and diversity. This collection is our way of celebrating the undefined beauty of not fitting in” and breaking down the limitations on the term “cool kids”
In what ways are you exploring new materials, methods, technology each season — or with this collection, specifically?
Textile innovation is a crucial part of our creative process every season. For this season in particular, we play with the idea of liquifying denim through our signature smocking techniques. Through smocking (a technique commonly seen in womenswear), we create garments that are versatile and sensual for the wearers. Another highlight of the collection lies in our craft of hand-crochet fabric tapes, a one-of-a-kind technique that we have been developing for a few seasons. The idea comes from remaking deadstock fabrics into rolls of fabric tapes, and creating garments through a combination of hand-crochet and digital printing. This season, we sourced deadstock materials from garment factories in China, pushing forward the concept of circular development and reusing waste materials.
Would you say your collections explore what’s happening in the world as you’re designing them?
Gender issues and labelling are topics that we discuss through our work, and it’s definitely a reflection of what’s happening around the world. Through our collections, we are challenging stereotypes and exploring gender concepts that, in a certain way, have not been represented thoroughly enough, especially in Asia. We think that gender and fashion are closely bonded and our work reflects the boundaries that we wish to break down through fashion.
What is something or someplace you would like to explore in your lifetime?
With PONDER.ER, we believe in the journey of searching for romance in the most unexpected places. Just like our collection “misfit”, undefined characters without limitations are beautiful, we would like to continue celebrating the “misfits” in our society and how we express ourselves.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.