Shanghai Designer Uma Wang: Clothing as the Art of Living

By Jessie Hu

Uma Wang
Uma Wang

In her 2022 Spring/Summer collection, Uma Wang set the theme as platonic love. She believes that the platonic relationship we have with our clothes happens when our clothes resemble our soul mate. “Clothing shouldn’t be a carrier of desire but part of the art of living…”  1 The idea is that clothing shouldn’t only match our aesthetics, but also our spirit. Our individual beauty and personalities should be able to shine through our clothes and we could incorporate clothing into our life as an artform. The Uma Wang style continues to have such pursuit and the pieces always look effortless and distinct. Unlike other brands that follow the social media trends, Uma Wang’s vision concentrates on being inspired by life and the people around us, making the designs one of a kind.

Wang Zhi, also widely-known as Uma Wang, is a popular Chinese designer born on May 10th, 1973 in  Hebei, China.2 Growing up, Uma Wang’s imagination and pursuit for aesthetics pushed her into the field of fashion design.3 At the age of 20, Uma Wang studied at the Shanghai China Textile University and 10 years later, she decided to move to London for her studies at the Central Saint Martin University of Arts. In 2005, she launched her label in London.4 Currently, she lives in Shanghai with her cat Ciccio. Uma Wang is well known for her work with textiles and patterns. She also mentioned where her inspirations originate from: “Everywhere, but specifically my surroundings (usually Shanghai but also Europe) and the feeling I have from these stimuli. Also, I am always inspired by vintage.”5

With its head office located in Shanghai, China, the brand Uma Wang has become increasingly popular amongst people in Shanghai. Moreover, going beyond China, Uma Wang has a store in Soho, New York while her designs can also be found in multiple boutiques in London and Milan. 6

Looking at the Uma Wang official website, we see a lot of usage of dark toned colors along with abstract images. The color themes involve colors like black, white, beige, gray and pops of bright colors like green, red and yellow. From observing the recent designs, we can tell that most of the pieces are monotone while lots of pieces are all-white or all-black. Even when there is a use of colors like blue or yellow, they are often dimmed and muted. The structures of the clothes suggest comfort and flow. The materials of the clothing speaks of nature since we see lots of cotton and flax for spring/summer collections and lots of wool for fall/winter series.

I think the reason the Uma Wang style is so popular in Shanghai is that the pieces are unique regardless of the trends. With the neutral colors and simple cutouts, the pieces are timeless instead of trendy, making them staples in everyone’s closet. Moreover, whether it’s the signature ballet flats or the beautiful dresses, they all bring a sense of comfort for the people wearing them. Especially for people living in cities like Shanghai, where they tend to prefer walking to explore the city, these comfortable but chic ballet flats are ideal. Essentially, Uma Wang’s designs are made to make people feel and look beautiful, putting the consumers’ feelings first. A lot of fans of Uma Wang in China, including my mom, also chose her for the concepts behind the designs.The designs often integrate the idea of poetry and they can be abstract at times. In Uma Wang’s 2016 SS collection, the fabrics used were thin and crinkly, while the dimmed, earth-toned colors remind me of the subtleness of poems, bringing a sense of mystery and obscurity. Like one of the dresses in the collection, there were some parts of the dress where meshy material was used to reveal the body. Other parts, however,  cover it. Some of the hems of the pieces were left unfinished, giving it a raw and natural appeal.7  These concepts create a full picture of the brand and that’s very appealing to the customers. The overall style is cool and nonchalant. It attracts people who are independent, strong-minded, yet elegant and charming at the same time.

SS 2022 collection. This piece features an all-white look with a wide-hem hat, round-neck long sleeve and wide leg pants. The material seems soft and breathable but with shape, contributing to the idea of creating volume as one of the keywords in the collection is “black and white with a fluid sense of volume”. The overall design is laid back with a slightly tightened waistline to show the figure. 

SS2022 Collection. This outfit stood out to me because of the dark green color through the look and the loose corset. “Classical green in renaissance oil paintings” was a key phrase inspiring the designs and I love how that’s incorporated into the spring summer collection as the green color often symbolizes life and prosperity while you can never get tired of looking at the dark, forest green. Moreover, when we see corsets worn usually, we see them being tied up to accentuate the waist. However, in this look, the corset is worn, but only the top two buckles are tied together white the bottom are let loose. The buckles represent the idea of knots in this collection as “knot” was also one of the keywords that inspired this collection. This connects the upper body and the lower body into one figure and lets the lines flow instead of cutting it off at the middle. It also allows comfort in wearing the piece. The dress simply drapes down the body while the skirt hemline puffs out, creating volume around the legs as well.

1Ojo studios editors, “Uma Wang 2022 Spring/Summer Womenswear Collection”. Uma wang official china.–KFHFDQ2LvnmxiTBWGdQ
2Unknown, “Designer: Uma Wang.”Mug magazine,
5Vogue Italia editors, “Uma Wang.” Vogue Italia,
6Bof editors, “Uma Wang.” Business of Fashion,
7Daniel Bjork, “Uma Wang’s balletic poetry.” Business of Fashion. September 25, 2015.

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