This is a preview of our feature on Kelly Wang in upcoming issue 15.
In December of 2017, Kelly Wang Shanahan and I met at The Echo on one of those super random and spontaneous nights when I decided to socialize past 10pm on a weekday. Issue 14 band Feels had just finished their set, and sweatin’ like a hoe in church, I decided to walk outside to get some air and smoke a joint before
Issue 10 band The Shrine took the stage. After walking outside and enjoying some sativa hybrid I bought from my local dispensary earlier in the week, I spotted Kelly, pipe in one hand, cocktail in the other. I was stoned, definitely tired, and, like I said, sweaty, so I don’t remember our formal introduction, but I do remember her style and hair texture, similar to mine. After socializing throughout the evening with mutual friends by our sides and discovering we’re both part Chinese, my interest grew, and intuition quickly convinced me to follow her on Instagram.
Growing up in the South Bay of Los Angeles, Kelly’s parents, both philosophers, enrolled her and her sister in various extracurricular activities throughout the school year, like soccer, sewing, Irish dancing and science camp, but it was her annual trip to China that sparked her creativity and lifelong commitment and curiosity with all things Chinese. As she matured and started identifying as half Chinese, half White—not the other way around—her passions in life came into focus.
After studying Chinese Studies, Fashion Design, and Entrepreneurship, Kelly founded Ziran, a sustainable womenswear and menswear brand that aspires to weave tradition into the modern world and lead a new generation to live natural, spontaneous and free.
“I grew up sewing and always had an interest in fashion. Every Friday after school, I’d go to Goodwill and Salvation Army and cut up and alter whatever I bought. I took a lot of pride in my personal style and always tried to wear clothes that were styled my own way. I planned on going to law school after high school, but in college I chose to major in Chinese Studies and minor in Law. When I started researching and writing my senior thesis on fashion in China over the past one-hundred years, I discovered the Xiang Yun Sha silk. I traveled to China that summer and visited the silk farm for the first time—I was blown away. It really spoke to me. I took the LSAT that summer following my trip; I did fine and could have gone to law school, but chose to go straight to fashion school instead. Six years later, I decided to start my own line and exclusively use the Xiang Yun Sha silk. When it came time to naming the brand, my Mom suggested Ziran, which literally means “natural, spontaneous and free”; it’s the return to self and authenticity, pushing away outside influence, and doing your own thing. The process of making the silk is the physical embodiment of Ziran. If it rains, they don’t make it; they rely on the sun, the earth, and the mud. It’s a very natural process.”
By using ancient techniques to design modern silhouettes, Ziran is an example of culturally charged slow fashion that opts for quality over quantity and preserving tradition over unethical monetization.
“People view Chinese-made products as cheap, or fake, or a knock-off, but there’s this beautiful culture there that hasn’t had the opportunity to voice and express itself in the West in an authentic way. It’s similar to the way Asian women are fetishized; there is a lot that people don’t know about us. Given my cultural background, I can bridge both worlds, and hopefully, in turn, can bring the two together.”
For more from Kelly Wang, follow her on Instagram.