Firstly, a huge congratulations on winning at Graduate Fashion Week 2019! What award did you win?
The womenswear Design Award and David Band Textile Award
How did it feel when your name was read out during the show?
I was a bit overwhelmed and also quite happy of course
Which university did you attend and what is the most valuable thing that you learnt there?
I studied at Edinburgh College of Art. Our programs were very intense since the 3rd year. So I buried myself in work during the last semesters. However the atmosphere at ECA was very friendly and free – as students were doing totally different things without the feeling of competition. Meanwhile, the brilliant faculty team were also very supportive of the students in all the different aspects to their fields. The most valuable thing I learned there is that as a designer, we need to think deep into who we really are and be determinate about the direction we are going. Plus to always be fearless of what’s new and unknown.
What lead you to study Fashion?
My grandmother used to design and make a lot of garments at home – just as a hobby. So there is a sewing machine in her house, which is giant and old. I got to know quite a lot about it and made a lot of tiny dress for my dolls. I was one of the generation who grew up with the rapid developing internet. I took in a lot western culture and blended it with my own identity. When I was in high school, I read a lot magazines like Vogue and i-D and I was so interested in not only fashion work, but also those conceptual art installation or art piece produced in collaboration with other disciplines. Back then I really wanted to do such fascinating and innovative thing, so I decided to take fashion as my working media, exploring more possibility about it.
What do your designs mean to you?
I was exploring futurism and narrative design. The themes almost decided that I need to go for a brand new design process and technique, which is exciting to me. In my understanding, the future of fashion would look more into social environment, intelligent context and our concern for the environment. And I think the themes I went for was leading me to get closer to the scenery above.
Tell us about your Graduate Collection.
The graduate collection was a long process and almost about energy and determination for me. It started with a wide range of research about silhouette, color, texture or atmosphere. The research leaded me to the development of garment construction and material sourcing. I did a pile of material samples at that stage since the one I used was pretty tricky and challenging. There was a relatively long process of adjusting the design according to the material properties and technical issue. And when all the aspects seem to work together, I put them into production and made the final collection.
What materials did you source for your final collection?
Since I want to minimize the artificial traces on the garments, I decided to cast my material to give a sense of mystery and futurity. Once I settle the purpose, I started to solve the problem by sourcing the proper mould and casting material. I did a lot of experiment at that stage and I got detailed record of all the material I tested while I gradually corrected the deviation and found the proper ones. Then finally I decided on the food – grade silicone as the most recyclable and flexible material to use.
Describe the inspiration and concept behind your work.
I was inspired by the urban village in my hometown. It’s actually a mountain city in southwest of China and has been under construction all the time due to the need of expansion. So there were a lot of overlapping buildings and highways constructed in 3 dimensions, which also buried and merged numerous old construction with the new ones. When I was child I used to imagine those giant concrete and metal structure as the silent giants and they are more like a mysterious city blueprint to me now. Somehow they are telling the anxiety and possibility of the modern city in this era.
Do you explore any political, social or historical notions through your work? If so, what messages do you hope to convey?
Starting from the concept of urban village, I wanted to convey the status of rapid urban development. Parallel or interlaced lines on the basis of natural tones on the garments are the blueprints of geometric cities formed on the land. I also wanted to show the dynamic nature of this development through such visual effects, and the coexistence of rhythm and chaos. As people’s life speed is fast we care less about durability and use a lot single-use plastic product. The material I chose is something super durable and harmless to health. And I’m kind of trying to promote the lifestyle of live more sustainably and slow down a little to experience deeper of the environment we are living in.
Many say that the industry is undergoing a huge change, with sustainability, diversity and responsibility becoming huge themes. Do you have any opinions on these movements?
I think the change is happening in either fashion education, high street fashion and luxury fashion industry. The fashion industry used to be accused of being an environmentally polluting, entertainment - and consumerist-oriented industry. As a fashion worker, I think the products and concepts we produce can guide the market to some extent. If we do something about sustainable development, it will surely turn around the current situation of the fashion industry and even improve our living environment. I think it is imperative to continuously improve the material used. This is the main direction of development of the industry.
Where do you hope to be in five year’s time?
I hope to place myself at womenswear design or material design in the fashion industry. I also hope to learn more about upcoming technology and undertake some challenging projects about innovative techniques.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently starting a job in Shanghai and I’ll do my master degree in one or two years which will bring new projects.
How are you hoping your designs will evolve in the future?
I hope my design can remain powerful and unconstrained, but get closer to daily wear in the future. I might keep the core and minimize them to fit the industry and market. But I’ll always be open to work cross border and apply different disciplines in my designs.
What one thing would you recommend our visitors do whilst at GFW?
Definitely watch shows that attract you and maybe talk to the designers to get to know their story behind, which is something the images might not tell.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself in first year at university, what would it be?
Stay curious and keep on your toes,, but not too much.
What top five tips would you give to final year students?
Try to get enough sleep and eat well.
Look into what’s impressing yourself before trying to impress others.
Try to solve the problem instead of avoiding them.
Follow your own feeling, even it might lead to a huge adjustment of everything.
Enjoy the final year since it would feel great after all the hard work.