A strongfelt curiosity about art combined with a hearty obsession with design; these were the personal attributes which drove former media maven Yang Lu into the arms of Raffles Design Institute Beijing. Temper turns things up a notch and philosophizes with Yang about costumizing, fantasizing and signifying change.
Creative Juices And Dreams
Having worked on the production and execution of both offline activities as well as promotional programs for many a fashion brand during her time in the media landscape, Yang gained an in-depth understanding of a brand’s history, philosophy and design style. Deeply attracted by brand appeal at large, Yang felt her soul and destiny in fashion had been sealed with a zipper and thus she decided to follow her heart into the pursuit of a long-awaited dream dripping with creative juices… Yang enrolled in Raffles Design Institute in Beijing.
Yang’s most recent collection entitled “Signal Lost” finds its tszuj in China’s sing/hum-along “Still”. The lyrics of the song aroused within her a sense of loneliness surrounding that loyal companion called “Television”, with man’s best friend suddenly dying and disappearing at half past two in the morning. It reminded her of a childhood long gone when Tuesday afternoons were seen as television repair time; no show to bee seen, no signal to be spotted in the initial screen snow. The only thing looming in the limelight would be that all too well-known basically colored blocked stock picture. As if time itself stood still.
In these days of advanced technology, we rely on smart technologies and big data. If any one of these were to suddenly go static, would we too remain still? I rely on this slightly nostalgic design in light of our reliance on modern technology.
Costume Dramas And Dilemmas
As someone who likes to think, study and then over-think some more, costume design is the preeminent designer niche which maximizes Yang’s personal qualities. Working with Beijing-based art festivals and costume dramas, these design experiences constantly enrich her design latitude and broaden the personal and professional horizons. Creating the before-unseen serves as another way of expressing her thoughts and it thus comes as no surprise that Yang’s designer philosophy bases itself on the fact that fashion conjures up one person’s concrete expression of ideas. Fashion design is not just about clothes, but entails a process of mastery.
Quick intermezzo: Speaking of costume design… On the outskirts of the spectrum, just think of Chinese opera costumes as one ultimate example of cultural and masterful imagination coming to life through the art of design. This niche site’s tradition of cross-dressing — the figure of the “male dan” aka the female impersonator — remains to this day a hotly debated of mistaken identity and/ or gender issues. Fashion for thought; one we’re just “randomly” throwing it out there.
When exploring a theme, you may create one graphic design, full-on installation art, a one-off performance, etc. Fashion is most definitely not rigid; it has the ability to flex the muscles. As long as there is an idea, there is room for development. It’s about making choices. As Yang so illustriously puts it, “in the world of the imaginary, people’s passive choices exist in the realm of the unconscious”. The question then beckons… Are we factually isolated or do we choose to be isolated? Have we truly lost signal?
A nation’s economic base often determines its fashion scene’s superstructure and nowadays, the Chinese market is one very much sought-after cookie.
More and more people across China are actively studying apparel design, yet not too many of them are actually showcasing their final results. Yang says on this peculiar matter, “I think that first of all, on a theoretical level, many students may lack a clear development framework and a sense of personal positioning within that frame. Then there is the more practical side of things with the biggest obstacle proving to be the quest for/ establishment of a platform including development, financial support and resources to link up with the real-time fashion chain”.
Designers are not independent individuals as they, perhaps unwillingly yet admittedly so, require a chain of buyers, fashion editors, fashion forecasting agencies, fashion marketers and other related authorities to make the dream a reality. On that note, Yang elaborates, “I think Chinese designers are currently waiting for a period of eruption, just like that of the Antwerp Six. A period of time in which the collective efforts to promote their work at that one particular point in time as a symbol of design that can go on to play a catalytic role”. Nicely put.
Minority culture is an important part of China’s clothing culture and becomes even more indispensable in the 21st Century to advocate the “ingenuity” of the nation’s cultural environment in this very smart tech-oriented moment.
Superstructures And Minority Cultures
A nation’s economic base often determines its fashion scene’s superstructure and nowadays, the Chinese market is one very much sought-after cookie. Many major brands have entered the Chinese market to launch limited China collections and Made In China products. This in Yang’s eyes not only shows that China now enjoys a higher status in the world and that Chinese consumption boasts a strong potential and ability, but also shows that China’s development prospects are sound and solid. Hereby take into consideration the popularity of China’s e-commerce platforms, with the accompanying simple payment applications, and the nation has managed to create one convenient shopping experience for all. China’s consumer is getting smarter. Picky, even.
Despite the thriving digital environment, we must never lose sight of China’s ethnic cultures. Their diversity, unique and colorful artisanal skills are colorful are by all means worthy of inheritance and development. Minority culture is an important part of China’s clothing culture and becomes even more indispensable in the 21st Century to advocate the “ingenuity” of the nation’s cultural environment in this very smart tech-oriented moment.
Yang too is studying some of China’s traditional arts and crafts, counting the history of Chinese clothing and costume design with Chinese elements among its many factors. In her own words, “I want to learn from the Chinese dress culture and refine it to the point where it befits the future application of it in my designs. It’s like a benchmark; you’ll find that you can focus more on designing ideas and thoughts that stretch well beyond what’s merely interesting. They’ll become meaningful. Furthermore, as a Chinese designer, only by understanding the culture of one’s own country can we gain a better understanding of global culture and effectively carry forward, apply and disseminate Chinese culture. I am a multi-faceted person. In terms of technology and materials, I think both traditional and innovative materials rule the roost, as long as they can truly play a part throughout the design process — in reasonable fashion and worthy of love.
Staying in touch with both contempo culture as well as past triumphs requires dedication and education from masters and students alike. And if you ask us, Yang’s signal is one of excellent strength.
All images come courtesy of Yang Lu
Copyright@Temper Magazine, 2018. 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.