It’s an accomplishment for an artist to partner with a swanky fashion house, yet a next-level achievement is unlocked by designing a collection one’s self, from inspiration to garment. For Steven Zhu, better known as Grammy-nominated producer ZHU, the feat has been reached with the debut of his rave culture-inspired NIGHTDAY fashion line.
This past March, ZHU hosted a private preview to those in the merchandising world in his showroom at the California Market Center in downtown Los Angeles. This past Friday, he opened this same showroom to fans for the first public viewing of the line. The entirely self-funded collection is designed by ZHU himself, in collaboration with his former creative director and fashion designer Emmy Slattery, who’s also worked with electronic-centric artists and brands including Monolink, Lightning In a Bottle and Production Club.
Soon, the collection will be sold through select boutiques and retailers. While pricing is not yet set, tags will be high-end, in line with other luxury brands. (You can see exclusive images of NIGHTDAY below.)
Though the NIGHTDAY collection was previewed at his 2022 EDC Las Vegas – where ZHU performed while hosting a live fashion show on a specially constructed runway – it’s been a project at least seven years in the making.
“I’m a pretty visual person. I’m very inspired by rave culture; this is something that I’ve been a part of, I’m embedded in,” says the L.A.-based multi-hyphenate. “I feel like my style has just now become influential in a way where I’ve been finally able to get the ideas from my head to a pen to silhouettes to being on a body to those bodies being in person and people seeing them.”
The NIGHTDAY line is named after his 2014 debut EP, The Nightday. ZHU says at the time of the project’s release, “Nobody knew who I was, and it was very much about the club and dance floor.” This underground essence still plays a significant factor in his artistry – from music to clothing. Nodding at underground club culture, the NIGHTDAY collection is comprised of mostly all-black fits — from logo-free tees and hoodies to luxe leather duffles. The line focuses on the intersection of functionality and style, a flex as neither component is compromised on the dance floor.
“It’s about paying homage to the club. I’m an artist who came through the club originally by being a producer and DJ and making people dance, to evolving into somebody who is writing music and now playing at festivals and arenas,” he says. “As I’m taking this little piece of the club culture into a larger audience, I don’t want those people to forget where the fundamental origins came from — and what I’m doing with fashion is another way to tell that story.”
He cites Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens and Alexander McQueen as the designers and fashion houses he most admires, with the understated designs of Bottega Veneta and Prada also serving as inspiration. True to ZHU’s aesthetic, NIGHTDAY is the epitome of minimalist chic meets gritty nightlife with clean hemlines juxtaposed with glitzy fabrication.
ZHU recalls witnessing the fusion of dance music with high fashion over five years ago at the Kris Van Assche Dior Homme Autumn/Winter 2017 show and seeing a way he could elevate the effort.
“It was all rave inspired, but they weren’t booking the DJs or taking parts of the culture and putting it into their plan. I was frustrated,” ZHU says. “In hip-hop, you have artists and designers coming together in fashion and people sitting there at shows, and culturally, it’s integrating. But I feel like that’s not the case with dance music and fashion. So, a big part of this is that I can bring a bit of the culture into fashion. Hopefully, both sides can play off each other and create something exciting beyond just me.”
Bucking the cycles and seasons customary to the fashion world, ZHU aims to bend the rules by adopting a more spontaneous approach with NIGHTDAY. He mentions timing as a critical component of his decision to pursue fashion.
“You could have the best thing, but it is at the wrong time, and no one will care. Then, you could have the wrong thing, but if it’s at the right time, everybody will care,” he says. “So, I try to stay tapped into what I’m feeling on the ground level and what the streets are feeling, then move in that way.”