Rui Zhou’s Rui Dives Beneath: A Conversation About Our Relationship With Skin

Chinese-born designer Rui Zhou employs form-fitting knitwear to stretch not only the bounds of conventional attire...

By Madison Huizinga

Chinese-born designer Rui Zhou employs form-fitting knitwear to stretch not only the bounds of conventional attire but the spaces between. Instead of skimming the surface, Zhou’s brand RUI dives past the garments themselves, externalizing the parts of ourselves that are so often concealed. “Love what makes you, you,” is a fitting slogan, as Zhou’s garments are celebrations of skin. A warm clasp, reminding us to treasure the human shells we inhabit.

The Parsons grad launched RUI in 2019 and since then, her designs have graced the runways of New York Fashion Week three times. Worn by artists like Solange and Chloe x Halle, Zhou’s work encapsulates an expert balance of grandiose and ease, exposure and relief.

These striking pieces turn heads, yet possess peaceful, pure qualities. While baring skin demands a level of vulnerability, there is gentleness amid Zhou’s collections. Serene tones and snug fabrics effortlessly wrap around the body like sheer extensions of the wearers themselves. Zhou’s pieces inspire soft introspection. Tender contemplation of the spaces between our skin and cloth, our bodies and the world.

The muted colors and second-skin fits challenge viewers to discern where the body ends and the garment begins. The draping and layering make perceiving and donning them a multi-dimensional experience. Visual mirages, causing gazes to dance across every thread.

The placement of cut-outs confronts conventional body views, drawing eyes from knees to elbow crooks, from hands to belly buttons. By utilizing these fresh shapes, Zhou re-envisions how we evaluate the human form and the role clothing plays in upholding it. Rather than using clothes to cloak and obscure, why not harness them to support and accept the irreplaceable parts of ourselves.

Through RUI, Zhou offers a meditative reflection about the relationships between intimacy and fragility, exposure and vulnerability. Her garments provide glimpses past exterior facades to embolden wearers to love what makes them, them.