New York Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2017: PH5 – Forbes

In the dead of winter, knitwear often falls into the category of comfort over couture—chunky sweaters that obscure slim silhouettes, stuffy scarves that weigh down looks.

PH5’s 2017 autumn/winter knitwear collection—their sophomore season at New York Fashion Week—embodies an elegant effortlessness, retiring the trope of heavy knits. From afar, the clothes look so light—like silk or chiffon—you almost forget that they’re knits designed for cold weather. The sartorial palate seems to counter the season—with sunny pastels that feel more soft and saccharine than saturated.

 Following their Fashion Week debut last September, PH5’s sophomore presentation showed an expedited maturation—an elevation from casual to luxury, from sporty to sophisticated. Their spring/summer collection paired Nike sneakers with every look, but their current presentation featured the naked shoe trend (à la Yeezy’s clear boots).

A photo posted by Emma Roberts (@emmaroberts) on Jul 10, 2016 at 12:59pm PDT

Their newfound upscale aesthetic has garnered quite the celebrity following. Emma Roberts rocked one of their fall/winter jumpsuits on her Nerve film press tour, and Taylor Swift and Keke Palmer (among others) have incorporated PH5 body suits into their off-duty style.

A photo posted by PH5 (@ph5official) on Sep 17, 2016 at 12:04am PDT

PH5 founder Wei Lin and designer Mijia Zhang, who launched the brand in 2014, explained that the current collection drew inspiration from the curves, translucency, and ethereal movement of floating balloons. Appropriately set in Chelsea’s airy Bortolami Gallery, the presentation emulated artist Martin Creed’s Park Avenue Armory exhibit, similarly flooding the room with white balloons to curate an interactive experience.

A photo posted by Laurennnn Palmer (@kekepalmer) on Dec 16, 2016 at 6:49am PST

PH5 grew from a gap in the knitwear market—where there are cheap commercial knits, then Missoni and Alexander Wang—and a $200-400 price gap in between that Lin and Zhang strive to hit. The blueprint of the brand melds east with west, artistry and technology—finding harmony between the contrasts.

“In science, pH7 is neutral—so (the name) PH5 is gender neutral, but slightly feminine,” Lin explained of the brand, whose androgynous fall/winter collection showcases several unisex pieces.

Every piece is produced in Lin’s family’s apparel manufacturing company in her native China, which has been producing high-tech knitwear for the world’s top designers for over 30 years. So, PH5’s science-derived name is fitting for their laboratory-like design process, where Lin and Zhang experiment with machine knitting techniques and develop at least five new stitches and fabrics each season.

“When most people think of knitwear, it’s always cashmere, wool, grandma, very chunky—black, white, gray, beige,” Lin said of the stagnant knitwear market. So when it comes to novelty knitwear, fun and functionality should be the main focus, PH5 posits.

These sweaters were inspired by the woven texture of hot air balloons. (Photos courtesy of Sam Deitch, BFA)

These sweaters were inspired by the woven texture of hot air balloons. (Photos courtesy of Sam Deitch, BFA)

The brand has become known for its surprise reversible and detachable qualities. The current-collection navy pullover that Zhang wears when we meet is a reversible piece that resembles the texture of a hot air balloon. It’s almost a woven inception—woven as a knit fabric and woven together in strips.

The knit tank in their current collection looks convincingly like a detachable crop top (with a removable bottom), though Zhang ensures that it is not. An especially standout piece is their navy trench coat with a detachable knit scarf.

So what’s next for the duo that’s mastered light knits unlike any other modern knitwear brand? Lin and Zhang say they want to continue pushing boundaries and even talk about venturing into athletic knitwear in the future.

Follow Karen on Twitter @k_hua.

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