Margaret Zhang teams up with Melbourne's Eastland Shopping Centre to Rethink the Fashion Catalogue

       She's a digital influencer with more than 780,000 followers on Instagram and it is a Melbourne shopping centre with a dowdy past that is on a quest for reinvention.

Writer, stylist, photographer and creative director Margaret Zhang is collaborating with Eastland shopping centre on a coffee-table book. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Writer, stylist, photographer and creative director Margaret Zhang is collaborating with Eastland shopping centre on a coffee-table book. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Together, Margaret Zhang and Eastland are hoping to make beautiful music together. More specifically, a coffee table book.

Zhang, 23, has spent the past week in and around Melbourne shooting the book, which will feature a series of photo essays on topics including sustainability, youth entrepreneurship and gender issues.

"In all my writing, I do not shy away from confronting challenges in modern society like racism and sexism. Eastland has been very open-minded on my creative direction on the project," she said.

Locations in the book include Eastland, sustainable chef Joost Bakker's property outside Melbourne, and the Dandenongs.

On Thursday, the doors of Eastland, in Ringwood, will be thrown open for a casting for "real" people to feature in the book, which will be published in September.

Zhang, who also has a successful fashion blog Shine By Three, said she was looking for "interesting, authentic faces of all ages, genders, heritages, walks of life".

"Melbourne is a dynamic community that I've not spent a lot of time with, so I'm looking forward to learning more about the city through its people."

Out here on location: misty and mystified 🌬

A photo posted by Margaret Zhang 章凝 (@margaret__zhang) on

So how does a shopping centre in Melbourne's outer east secure the services of one of the most in-demand names in the fashion world?

Eastland's general manager, Steve Edgerton, said the project took six months to pull together, working across several continents and time zones in line with Zhang's schedule.

"By combining art and creative collaborations with experts like Margaret, we're moving away from the transactional spikes of spring/summer campaigns and moving towards pieces of content that engage people on a richer, deeper level," he said.

But the venture is not without risk. For starters, it's a massive departure from the way shopping centres traditionally market their brands, Mr Edgerton said.

"We're testing the waters with something that hasn't been done before. Retail is a constantly changing medium, and so to champion the new and evolve, we need to explore new ways to tell our story to consumers."

Eastland declined to comment on the cost of the project, citing commercial sensitivities.

Zhang, who is studying law at Sydney University in between consulting for brands including Louis Vuitton and Uniqlo, said the book was a step forward in her creative development. 

"It would have been a lot easier for me to just shoot the whole book in Sydney or New York, where I can just shoot who, what and where I'm accustomed to. However, working in editorial fashion, I do find myself limited to shooting only luxury or high-end contemporary women's designers ... It's important to recalibrate your range and genre of imagery every once in a while." 

She said that in Paris, she observed several key trends, including the pre-eminence of a "high-low mix of luxurious fabrications and accessories pared back with everyday comfort wear like oversized tees, tracksuits, and utility boots".

Eastland has recently undergone a major redevelopment, including the opening of a beauty precinct featuring a floral canopy ceiling.

[By: Melissa Singer] [The Sydney Morning Herald] [Read More]