From left to right, top to bottom and maximalism to minimalism, the wheels of the fashion bus go round and round. Temper takes a closer look at the thought of simplicity in fashion, and all it entails, through the eyes of designer Eva Yiwei Xu and her brand All Comes From Nothing.
Liúbái (留白 ) or ‘blanking’ is a commonly used technique in traditional Chinese painting, leaving space for the imagination to run rife.
Despite hailing from three generations of doctors, Xu knew from a very early age that she wanted to be a fashion designer as their TV set somehow, and illegally so, received the Fashion TV cable signal back in 1996 when this network first launched. True story. Glued to the screen watching runway show upon runway show, the epiphany had struck. A myriad of internships later, starring Michael Kors and the likes, Xu launched her own brand: All Comes From Nothing. Temper grabs this up and comer – clad in her own light-grey Jackie dress design – by the lapels and talks blanking techniques, oriental poppies and hybrid music! With the Muse of minimalism guiding us through the process like a white thread.
Minimalism as we know it may very well be a western art movement launched in the 1960s, yet perhaps we might be able to shine a Chinese light on this “blank canvas” theme at hand:
Blanking is a commonly used technique in the creation of traditional Chinese works of art. The word “blank” actually refers to the art of painting and calligraphy in order to make come full circle the overall bigger picture. The rules in China’s traditional art of painting are more harmonious and intend to leave the space open for imagination and interpretation. Have a nice minimalist ring to it, if you ask me — a layman by all acounts, true.
As the creative requirements of Chinese painting do not demand strict adherence to reality or to a particular angle of view or source of light, the painter has complete freedom in terms of artistic conception, structural composition and method of expression. It’s all about composition and space. To give prominence to the main subject, it is permitted to omit the background entirely and simply leave it blank. At the same time, taking into account how the sizes and shapes of the spaces in the painting all differ from one another, the very absence of content can itself create rhythm and variety. Sometimes this variety and the balance created in this way is further enriched by the addition of inscriptions in the empty space. Well, as they say…
All Comes From Nothing!
About Moxy And Muses
All Comes From Nothing (ACFN) is womenswear created by artist and designer Eva Yiwei Xu based in both New York and Shanghai. Inspired by the Chinese philosophy of simplicity and Minimalism art, Xu’s designs combine the softness found in natural fabrics with geometric shapes, creating versatile and unique looks. Each ACFN piece yields to the essence of the individual, allowing their inner identity to shine and power through. Artistic, minimal and elegant, are the keywords when flipping through Xu’s lookbook.
The ACFN woman has reached a point in life where she just knows. With a rooted identity, she welcomes everything in life with open arms. Both the pleasant and challenging moments along the ride are savored equally given each plays a distinct part in the discovery of one’s lifepath. Dedicated to her creative work, Xu’s client dares to venture into ideas left unexplored by many who have come before her. As a strong individual, the ACFN woman is by no means a fashion victim; clothing does not define her identity. Au contraire, her overall essence of self defines her style. The ACFN woman creates for life. She is artistic, elegant, intuitive and adventurous. Girl got moxy. Fashion is her accomplice, not her calling card.
The main Muse calling card for Xu herself is art. Whether it be through color, shapes, patterns or the overall aesthetic feel, some inspirations find their way into Xu’s design in a more literal manner than others. Whether it be architecture or Sol LeWitt (the American artist linked to movements including Conceptual art and Minimalism); inspiration rages like red lit fire in Xu’s life. One such current example is that of her soon-to-follow SS18 collection fully based on Georgia o’Keeffe’s Oriental Poppies and Pearls; all very feminine – the flowers represent vaginas, methought. Mind you, and us, Contemporary Art, Modern Art or Minimalism are all still relatively new concepts in China, with a very limited percentage of people – typical in the initial stages of the development of the individual in a newly developed society — interested in exploring these new unbeaten sites. On a very positive note, their interest and eagerness to learn is most definitely on the rise. This, looking on the bright side, gives Xu an advantage since her collections have the power to transfer more Art Basel knowledge onto her growing Chinese client- and fan-base.
“If you got what it takes and you power through, people will see you. They will take note!” Eva Yiwei Xu
About Minimalist Simplicity And Mirroring Society
Because you need to know in order to grow, so bear with us!
In “Minimalism: Designing Simplicity”, Hartmut Obendorf teaches us the following:
“ Minimalism as a style in visual arts and music, uses pared-down design elements. The term originates from the artistic movement that appeared in 1960s New York, when a group of artists including Donald Judd, John McCracken and Agnes Martin rejected the traditional representations in painting and sculptures and chose to pursue the new mode that owed as little as possible to the physical existence of an object. Deriving from reductive aspects of Modernism, Judd described his work as ‘the simple expression of complex thought’, summing up the aesthetic as it exists within fashion, too.”
Nevertheless, minimalism in fashion stretches far beyond the use of single color or the denotation of a mere trend embracing simplicity. The minimalist aesthetic has long found itself closely allied with the wider range of social development, incessantly reinventing itself and adapting to befit the diverse chapters of our post-1950 society.
“Minimalism served as an indicator of economic cycles and technological development. Looking back, at the development of the 20th century, we can observe the minimalism underpinning almost every social development, even before the official start of the minimalist movement. From women entering the workforce to winning the voting rights, the story of the modern working woman also mirrors the rise and fall of minimalism.” Obendorf continues. The onset of society’s more multifaceted lifestyle was accompanied by a simplified, masculine and more practical wardrobe (see Coco Chanel’s playbook), whereas the backlashes against feminism — during the 1950s and 1980s – unleashed a return to the hyper-feminine look (for example Dior’s New look). (Countered once again by the avant-garde creators to follow, but who’s counting.)
“The relationship between popular music and fashion has been culturally significant since the 1950s, and this book explores the ways in which music and musicians play a key role in the shaping of identity, taste and consumption.” Janice Miller in “Fashion and Music”
About Modish Infusion
Circling back to Xu, then, minimalism represents a state of comfort. First confronted with the style when visiting the Dia:Beacon Museum (located at some two hours from New York City), she realized this was it. This was the art form she had been dreaming of. This was her jam. Never before, in all of her years studying art and fashion/textile design at Tsinghua University prior to that particular museum visit, had she come across a style that spoke to her in such a way. New Romantics, Pop Art, all those did not cater to her specific taste… Until she “met” and clicked with Eva Hesse. “You might even say this type of art is connected to Chinese culture, in terms of Zen,” Xu explains.
When we arrive at the crossroads between Xu’s creations and China, we mostly see her native country’s influence come out in her use of techniques. New embroidery techniques, visits to the manufacturing factories to get the latest in technology, Xu remains highly hands-on. When it comes to the art itself, she does at times refer to her experiences in traditional Chinese painting: Yep, that blanking technique. As opposed to the West, Chinese traditional art does not require the craftsman to fill up the entire frame, but one may leave the space open for the imagination to fill in. A rather minimalist thought, in Xu’s book. Being in New York only adds to that imagination. The city’s people, the streets, their straightforwardness, the electricity, all combined spark the creative mind on a daily basis. Surrounded by a close-knit circle of Chinese designer, musician, filmmaker and artist friends who have all come here to do their own thing, Xu finds herself in an nurturing and -stimulating setting 24/7. The city never sleeps. Nor does the imagination.
Not interested in merely hosting a fashion show where models line up and scoot down the runway, Xu aims to turn her seasonal presentations into hotblooded events. Entertainment, if you will. With a little help from her artistic friends: “The Either”. One hybrid, futuristic, humanistic, globalistic band integrating electric pipa, electric erhu and electric vocals, these guys have joined strings with Xu at her past three runway shows, dishing out some live performances as well as taking the lead in musical direction. Xu and The Either make for a perfectly harmonious match, both literally combining the concepts of futurism and blanking minimalism. Both parties share the same target and are boldly going where no one has gone before. Dressed up in All Comes From Nothing.
As both Xu and her musical counterparts at The Either have stated: The future – of fashion, art and humanity — is now. Tradition, wherever on the globe you may find yourself, is something you know, it’s something you’ve grown up with; it is innate. The task remains for us all to bounce down that unbeaten path and incorporate innovation as to kick off a new limitless, boundary-shattering cycle. And thus we come full circle. Zen.
Follow Xu and her brand All Comes From Nothing on
Images: All images belong to Elsbeth van Paridon for Temper Magazine
Copyright@Temper Magazine 2017 All Rights Reserved
After tackling Beijing for some six years where she worked for China International Publishing Group, she spent a moment in time moseying down steep alleyways and writing about their fashionable and underground features in Hong Kong.
Van Paridon most recently managed to claw her way through a Europe-based academic endeavor called "Journalism". 'Tis in such fashion that she has now turned her lust for China Fashion/ Lifestyle and Underground into a full time occupation.
Van Paridon hunts down the latest in Chinese menswear, women’s clothing, designer newbies, established names, changes in the nation’s street scenery, close-ups of particular trends presently at play or of historical socio-cultural value in Chinaplus a selection of budding photographers.
Paired with a deep devotion to China’s urban underground scene, van Paridon holds a particular interest in the topics of androgyny, the exploration of individuality and the power that is the Key Opinion Leader (the local term for “influencers”) in contemporary China.
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