ZJ Pan: Getting to Know SoHE’s International Student Designers


By Campbell Fauber



The Threads: React team reached out to SoHE’s Textile and Fashion Design international students to learn more about their experiences studying at UW-Madison. We were curious about their design work and what life is like as an international student, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today we talked with ZJ Pan, a Physics and Textiles & Fashion Design (TFD) senior from Hangzhou, China. 


How long have you been studying at UW?

Three years. 

What made you want to come to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student?

My original motivation of studying in the U.S. as an international student was to pursue a degree in physics and gain experiences of working in an English speaking environment. I decided to study textile and fashion design because I’ve always been interested in clothes and structure. I started exploring streetwear and later got into garments as sculpture and art.  I believed clothes can create personality, and the collection I just did reflects this idea of clothing creating personalities and are “facades.”

What was the most surprising to you once you got here?

I started studying in the U.S. at a relatively young age. The most surprising thing I noticed was the incredible space that people have; not physical space but the space of being different without being judged or looked upon and the space of pursuing something with a supportive community behind you.

What do you miss most from back home?

I miss most the feelings that my home gives me. I really miss the feelings that the streets and buildings gave me and the uncomfortable heat from the downtown and the tourists that would flood during the summer. I miss the shops at night and the Gobi Desert I traveled to last year. 

How has it been coping with all of the current events while so far from home?

With the skyrocketing number of Covid-19 cases in the U.S., I have to frequently ensure my family that I’ll take extra precautions and wear masks. It has been really hard for me to work on projects at home without a studio; I had to convert my room to a “studio.”

Tell us about your design work. What is it like? What inspires you?

My works are mostly in black, and they often are extensions of the human body. My inspirations were mostly from the constant desperation I’m experiencing and my pursuit of strong visuals and theatrical effects. I’m searching for my style and it has been incredibly hard to confront questions, about my inspirations and motivations, that I threw at myself.


Interested in seeing more of ZJ’s design work? Check out some photos from his senior thesis collection that was featured in this year’s Threads: React Virtual Design and Fashion Runway. 



Credits: Photography/Editing: Xiaoyue Pu

Models: Maxwell Peng, Yoshi Asai, Jonah Zucker Burn, ZJ Pan