Yushan Li (left) and Jun Zhou (sitting) designer's of PRONOUNCE in their Fall 2019 collection. Photographed by Alexandre Gaudin. Fashion by Gaultier Desandre Navarre.

Arty Sportswear Shines In London With These Two On-the-Rise Labels

Pronounce and C2H4 bring a new flex to the sportswear arena.

by Nick Remsen; photos by Alexandre Gaudin
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Jan 8 2019, 10:09pm

Yushan Li (left) and Jun Zhou (sitting) designer's of PRONOUNCE in their Fall 2019 collection. Photographed by Alexandre Gaudin. Fashion by Gaultier Desandre Navarre.

You know when you were a kid at the pool and someone would inevitably have one of those toy torpedos that you’d try to underwater-throw, at just the right angle, to glide rather than sink? Who’d have guessed the sartorial equivalent of said aquatic playthings would effectively work as the closures on a duffel coat or a raggedy cardigan? These exaggerated, XL-sized accents were one detail that propelled Pronounce—the ascendant label by Yushan Li and Jun Zhou—into London’s heady artful-sportswear zone this season. Their Fall 2019 collection was rife with the sort of sharp consideration one might expect of a duo with the combined educational background of Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and Milan's Instituto Marangoni.

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PRONOUNCE Fall 2019. Photographed by Alexandre Gaudin. Fashion by Gaultier Desandre Navarre.

“The collection was about an abstract concept… a beam of light. We want to celebrate individual spirits,” said Yushan. That singularity and quirkiness was further evinced through muted colors paired with neon pops, oddball geometric faces on vests, and contrast taping along the edges of outerwear with tweaked proportions (including a pseudo-empire-waist parka), all of which gave the (arguably oversaturated) sportswear category an interesting new flex. And while the label, which the duo launched in 2015, is technically split between Shanghai and Milan, Yushan says that London is the pair’s preferred point of exhibition: “It is the best platform. It makes us push ourselves to present at the highest level, converting what we are thinking in the moment.”

Another relative newcomer to look for in this arena is C2H4, founded in 2014 by Shanghai-born Yixi Chen. Its moniker has an accidentally scientific origin story: “Yixi,” while a name, is also the sound of the word for the compound Ethylene, the chemical symbol for which is C2H4. Apparently Ethylene has a “sweet and musky” smell, but the label, if one were to define it as such, lets off a far more acrid and metallic odor. Fall’s smoky, icy, steely palette was paneled into ultra-technical parkas, anoraks, shorts and even a boiler-suit.

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Yushan Li (left) and Jun Zhou (sitting) designer's of PRONOUNCE in their Fall 2019 collection. Photographed by Alexandre Gaudin. Fashion by Gaultier Desandre Navarre.

Yixi’s vision of sportswear was more expected—something, in a way, of a futuristic sailing uniform—but nonetheless intriguing. And that’s a big takeaway from London after this past weekend: tracksuits and sports-inflected gear are old hat, but designers are now finding ways to subvert the genre to procure something that’s a bit more compelling. It won’t always look “new”—there are some referential bits in both of these collections that will remind ardent viewers of collections past and elsewhere—but new in this sense might be near impossible to achieve at this point. Rather, it’s the subtle, edited differentiations that are still giving sportswear its kick… and these labels are two very much worth zooming in on.

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C2H4 Fall 2019. Photographed by Alexandre Gaudin. Fashion by Gaultier Desandre Navarre.
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Yixi Chen (left), designers of C2H4 in the Fall 2019 collection. Photographed by Alexandre Gaudin. Fashion by Gaultier Desandre Navarre.

Credits: Model: Rishi Robin at Rebel Management; Photographer: Alexandre Gaudin; Fashion Editor: Gaultier Desandre Navarre, Special thanks to The British Fashion Council