The future of fashion

Jia Zhang, Founder of Queen’s Fashion Photography finds a voice behind the lens

Jia Zhang, Founder of QFP, plans to pursue a career in fashion photography.
Supplied by Jia Zhang

When I first met Jia Zhang, I had an epiphany about the cargo shorts I was wearing. 

Zhang, ArtSci ’17, had just returned from New York Fashion Week and looked like it. His perfectly groomed hair, designer clothes and polite mannerisms put my pizza-stained shorts and t-shirt combo to shame. 

Growing up, Zhang picked up a British accent from an old professor and watching British TV shows. It has since faded, but he’s retained the social manners and measured speech. Zhang was born and raised in Luohe, China — a city more famous for its meat processing industry than its fashion scene. He only found his twin passions, fashion and photography, when he moved to an international high school in Zhengzhou, China.

The brands discovered during hours spent scouring the Internet for the North American street wear he admired — The Hundreds, Obey, Supreme — were an early inspiration for the young photographer. But Zhang has moved up in the fashion hierarchy and his list of favourite designers now includes J.W. Anderson, Saint Laurent and Comme Des Garcons. 

Zhang added that my style is “laidback and casual,” which I assume is what Comme Des Garcons would call “wearing cargo shorts.”

But even once he got to Queen’s, Zhang didn’t connect his fashion sense with his photography. At least not until his friend, Zaid Mohmand offered an alternative. 

“Zaid suggested I start my own photography club,” Zhang said. His friend suggested that Zhang would benefit from having something that was wholly his own.

And so, Queen’s Fashion Photography (QFP) was born. Their first act as a club was called ‘Street Snaps,’ where the members asked stylish Queen’s pedestrians for a photo of their #ootd (outfit of the day) to put on social media.

That first day in front of Stauffer was a different experience for Zhang.

“Sometimes we feel bad, judging people that walk by, saying not this one. But when you do, people get so happy. We made their day,” he said.

He explained that the club tries to find unique styles in their street models — people who express themselves in interesting and unusual ways.

“You want something that catches people’s eye,” Zhang said. “Some might say these styles are bad. We don’t think so. We think it’s interesting for them to express themselves.”

Within a year, the club had won the AMS’s Best New Club of The Year Award. While I used my hands to excitedly describe the club’s rise, Zhang nodded along politely. He admitted he can’t take sole credit for the success, citing his friends’ help and the club’s committed membership.  

Since ‘Street Snaps’, the club’s catalogue has gown considerably: themed photo shoots, short films and a series featuring Principal Daniel Woolf  to name a few.

The club’s success allowed Zhang to pursue his photography even further. After his third year, he landed an internship as Elle Canada’s first in-house videographer and just recently returned from paid coverage of this year’s New York Fashion Week.

But, Zhang’s future is film. He plans to build his talents in Toronto with short art and fashion films before he moves on to commercials.  

“Get my first demo reel out there,” Zhang said. “My final goal would be Hollywood.”

While he’ll be graduating this year, Zhang hopes that he can provide similar opportunities for the club’s new members. 

“I feel super insecure sometimes because I imagine what I’d be like if I didn’t create this club,” Zhang said. When he reflects back, he said, most of his early career success were rooted on that Monday when Zaid suggested he start a club.

“I needed a voice,” Zhang said. “So I created one.”

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