Q&A | PH5
PH5 is the women’s ready-to-wear knit-tech brand blending architectural dimensions with sophisticated designs. Wei Lin, the daughter of a knitwear manufacturer, and Parsons-trained, award-winning designer, Mijia Zhang, created the company in 2014 to revolutionize the knit-industry with the advancement of fashion technology. Split between NYC and China, Mijia heads up design, while Wei covers the business-end. Challenging conventional industry norms, PH5 utilizes the latest in 3D Shima Seiki knitting machines with a team of designers and engineers who develop codes for the machinery. Curved knits remain synonymous to the womenswear brand as the only fashion house to perfect its development. These innovations have sparked heaps of praise, while PH5 sits as a current finalist for the BOF China Prize. We spoke with the forward-thinking, Wei Lin to discuss the inception of PH5, design influences, and modernized knitwear.
Tell us about the inception of PH5.
PH5 is a story of Art meets Science. My family owns a knitwear factory in China which I left for a career in consulting here in New York. During that time Mijia was my roommate and attending Parsons where she eventually won the Kering Empowering Imagination award. This lead her to a job at Christopher Kane and later on with Nike. As she was accelerating in her fashion career, I felt the calling to go back to the family business and create a fashion label utilizing the factory’s technology. What I needed was the artistic side of it, and so the two of us joined forces to debut during NYFW for SS17.
Our brand name PH5 was originally inspired by the numeric pH scale of 1 through 14. If pH7 is neutral, PH5 is neutral but slightly feminine. Empowered by this scientific name, PH5 has set out to inspire people to rethink knitwear completely. We want to tell the world that knitwear is more than just a winter fabric. It is playful, versatile, and fashion forward. We are all about innovation.
What influences drive your designs from concept to creation?
PH5 is heavily influenced by art. Modern art, in particular, is our design database. Each season functions like a research project on a subject we choose. We start from an artwork and allow ourselves to be intrigued by it, which then leads us to create various elements for the collection.
How did the infamous wavy knit come to be?
Our signature wavy hem has been with us since our very first season. We like how whimsical it looks. It represents this contrast of chaos and silence.
How do you hope to push boundaries and modernize knitwear?
We have an in-house R&D center where we work directly with engineers and technicians to code computer programs on cutting edge Shima Seiki flatbed and 3D knitting machines. Every season, we offer our customers something completely groundbreaking. Whether it be a new stitch, a new yarn, or a new treatment, we are offering something they’ve never seen before.
Tell us about the implementation of 3D Shima Seiki knitting machines in the family knitwear factory.
We see whole garment/3D knitting as the future for knitwear. It’s a type of machine that can knit the entire garment simultaneously and without seams. We are actively testing and playing with this technology. It’s new for us, and so it will take some time for us to come up with something cool.
How do comfort, breathability, and structure play an important factor in PH5 fabrics?
Both of us are sneaker girls, and so accessibility and originality means a lot to us. It’s the most important thing for us. We aim to dress everyday girls, and not just celebrity types. We want to make sure PH5 is comfortable and functional for everyday wearing.
You were the first fashion brand to dress influencers Lil’ Miquela and Sophia the AI Robot; fitting perfectly with your advancements in knit tech. Who do you both dream of dressing in PH5?
Amal Clooney and Priscilla Chan. Both are strong and smart career women.
How do you envision the future of innovation and technology in the fashion industry?
We envision it to be highly concentrated in wearable tech and sustainable materials.