With 910k followers, you may have come across Margaret Zhang on your Instagram feed or seen her on the front row of every fashion week, but she's so much more than your average influencer. A law school grad who's worked on fashion shoots with photography legend Peter Lindbergh, she's just finished directing her first fashion film—at just the age of 24. The fashion prodigy has proven herself a force to be reckoned with but we managed to catch her for a moment during Fashion Asia in Hong Kong to see how she manages it all.
What made you first fall in love with fashion?
I studied ballet and piano growing up, and while they’re not directly related, they’re steeped in history and culture, as is fashion. With ballet, it's obviously more conducive to visual integration. Costume was a huge part of my experience with dance so I became very enthralled with Raf Simons and Viktor and Rolf and sculptural designers in 2009, especially when Raf was just starting at Dior and Viktor and Rolf did the ballet collection.
Who are some creatives you look up to?
Miuccia Prada, Raf Simons and Dries Van Noten are kings. They’re just very well educated in history and art and almost scientific in their approach to the female form, and how they want women to feel. They’ve had such a longstanding career in their own or other brands which is a testament how sustainable their approach is to design.
Music-wise, I love Brian Eno who is not modern per se, (I think his most influential time was in the late 80s early 90s) but he explores a much more abstract space in music that speaks to a more visceral reaction as to a more trendy reaction from consumers.
There’s a photographer who’s agoraphobic (her Instagram account is called @streetview.portraits) and she’s scared of going outside but she takes amazing screen captures of Google Earth and finds amazing scenes around the world. I think it’s amazing that she can take her situation into a creative pursuit.
You recently directed your first film "There’s No Space Left in C Minor"—can you tell us some of the challenges you faced?
I think because I’ve always run such a tight ship with my own projects, I don’t really like to manage people. When I was modelling with 50 people on set, it made me anxious because there were so many parties and opinions and you can’t really be efficient.
As a photographer, I’ve always been super lean with my team, and for film, that’s just not possible. You hire seven guys and 20 people show up on set because there’s so much equipment and so many elements to take into account. Plus, delegating is difficult for me because I’m a control freak, and I’ve always done everything like retouching myself.
What is your approach to your own blog?
I made a personal decision to have no ads or sponsored content on my blog, because once I do that, I would not be able to talk about things that I care about like policy and sustainability if there’s commercial interest at stake.
And as much as I love to listen to my readers, I try not to be too reactive to what’s “trending” because then you’re by definition no longer an authority and creator and it makes me sad to see respected titles fall victim to analytics.
You’ve achieved so much already at 24—what are some dreams you’re aiming for next?
I would love to do a feature. I want to do a documentary early next year, and I’m fascinated by augmented reality and I want to try to incorporate that into my work, this new way for people to experience visuals to create awesome scenes and inspire people with sound and time-interaction.
I’d also love to explore acting a little more (I directed myself in my film) but I did theatre all through high school so I think being an acting would make me a better director as well. I’ve been taping and auditioning a lot lately which has been an interesting experience, I have so much respect for my friends who are actors because it’s so harrowing and vulnerable and you have to be more open-minded and let stuff go and not be too self-critical which is something I need to work on.