China Design Competition: Zhu Li

Featured Entry: Zhu Li

China Design Competition: Zhu Li

20th April 2020

The Real Leather. Stay Different. China Student Design Competition celebrates the beauty, sustainability and versatility of leather, while recognizing the innovation and craftsmanship that the new generation has to offer. The competition engages with young and exciting designers to directly highlight the history, application and sustainable credentials of leather as a rich and versatile material. In doing so we look to recognize and reward creativity, craftwork and innovation in fashion & design while also creating new exciting ambassadors who can champion leather for the future.

Zhu Li’s dolphin cruelty-inspired fashion entry has been shortlisted for the Real Leather Global Student Design Competition. We were able to pull her away from her studies for a few minutes to talk us through the inspiration for her work, alongside her thoughts on designing and crafting with authentic leather.

Congratulations for being shortlisted! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Zhu Li. I’m a 21-year-old student at Zhejiang University of Science and Technology. I’m originally from Sichuan, China.

Tell us about your submission.

My inspiration comes from the documentary film “The Cove”, which is about the despicable animal cruelty incident that took place in Japan. I express this violent behaviour through the stitching of fabric, pictures and text printing. Pins and iron accessories express the bloody behaviour. If I had to give an overall style, it would be closest to dark punk.

From my childhood, I distinctly remember dolphins singing, which made me feel warm-hearted and emotional – just like the animal. When I was a child, I always imagined dolphins being able to rescue children from the water and I was able to roam with one and explore the depths of the sea. When I was older, I learnt through research that dolphins protect humans from other fierce animals through their self-awareness and intelligence. They’ve also successfully treated countless mental illnesses in humans and children with autism. People affectionately call dolphins “lifeguards at sea”. In high school I watched “The Cove” and ever since then, I’ve never been able to understand the practise of killing this kind of creature.


What are your thoughts on working with leather?

I approached leather knowing nothing about the material. When I began to work with it, I became fascinated with leather and had a lot of fun learning about it. Now I know why there are so many kinds and how to use each one.


*To find out more and check out the other entrants see our YouTube video here*


The China Student Design Competition received 416 sketch designs from seven renowned universities and colleges, including Tsinghua University and Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, were submitted for the categories of Apparel, Footwear and Accessories. A judging panel consisting of domestic fashion designers, leather designers of retail brands and leather experts, has selected 54 of the most innovative designs. Winning finalists will then be selected for a product demonstration and award ceremony, planned to take place at Shanghai Fashion Week 2021, with national lifestyle and fashion media in attendance.