Following on from her successful exhibition Beauty On Fire – For Zaha at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery (in memory of her friend and muse – the late, great Dame Zaha Hadid), Chinese fashion designer Rui Xu is firmly cementing her position as a leading designer in the UK. Rui’s most recent project was creating a series of unique animal masks to highlight the plight of wildlife for Elephant Family, whose Royal Presidents are HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. The masks were displayed at the V&A Museum (where Rui’s Xianggui fashion work is already a part of the permanent collection) in the Cupola, a secret dome on top of the building which is not usually open to the public, as a prelude to Elephant Family’s fundraising Animal Ball. The Animal Ball – a key fashion, philanthropic and cultural moment – was attended by London society.
“We still have Asian elephants in China in the very south of the Yunnan province, but people have not only invaded their homeland, but also exploited them, detested them, and abused them,” Rui says of the reason for her involvement with the Animal Ball. “The elephant is a representative of the wild animals that are on the verge of extinction and so we are coming together to tell the world that they need our help. I hope the Animal Ball can become the living room of all the wildlife worldwide. When I think of those poor elephants’ lives, my heart is filled with infinite compassion. I hope my donation can bring real benefits to Asian elephants and other wildlife.”
Rui has created one of the masks which was on display at the V&A: Mask No. 21 “The Return of The King – David’s Deer.” The mask is made from Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene plastic, which can be easily manipulated to create complicated shapes. 3D printing additionally allows for the development of precise details. However, despite the modern-day materials and digital design procedures employed, Rui finds the creative process akin to ancient craftsmen of old carving artworks by hand. This appreciation for understated but authentic artisanship is very much the inspiration behind her whole collection. “Slow down, appreciate the world, touch the heart of animals,” Rui says. “Then human beings will have more happiness and dignity in life.”