I BECAME VERY PASSIONATE ABOUT FASHION BECAUSE I LOVED HOW IT COMBINES BOTH ART, CREATIVITY WITH FUNCTIONALITY
Earning her stripes as a breaking new talent in her native China, Li elevated her dream of becoming a fashion designer to New York, where as well as graduating from Parsons has also showcased at New York Fashion Week. Here, Li gives her honest overview on sacrifices, the best piece of advice she’s received from her mentors as well as finding her individual identity.
How did you kick-start your career?
I just graduated from the MFA program in fashion design at Parsons, so I’d say that my career is really just starting out. I obtained my undergraduate degree in fashion design in China, and founded the label Nothing Clothing while in school, which I was very fortunate to have the backing of several independent retailers. Upon graduation was when I decided to come to New York to pursue an MFA at Parsons.
Why did you decide to break away from China and relocate to New York?
The MFA at Parsons was a very exciting opportunity as the academic excellence and achievement of the fashion design program are highly recognized around the world. Also New York is one of the major fashion capitals and home of a lot of young fashion brands that I’ve frequently followed.
How did your interest in fashion come about?
Growing up I always loved to paint, when I was in high school I became very passionate about fashion because I loved how it combines both art, creativity with functionality – fashion design to me is a form of art that can be constantly observed and admired in daily life.
Who are the influential figures in fashion you look up to?
I wouldn’t necessarily consider her as my role model but Phoebe Philo is a designer that I’ve always admired. I think she is very forward thinking and modern in her creations, transitioning this ethos to her own personal style – to me she embodies both the elegance of a European woman and the cool personality of a New Yorker.
Building your career can be very time consuming. What sacrifices did you make to get to where you are today?
I think the sacrifice that most designers and fashion design students have to make is slashing the time spent with friends and family. Designing a collection is a lengthy and sometimes lonely process in the sense that one has to completely shut down and have some time alone in order to fully explore themselves to conceptualize and design a collection. Then of course there were countless late nights when my friends were out partying and I was working to a deadline cutting patterns.
Have their been difficult times in your career and how did you overcome them?
What I found the most challenging during my two years at Parsons was the process of transforming abstract inspirations and ideas into the actual design and garments. Yet this difficult time allowed me to discover and explore my own design identity.
Living in New York must give you plenty of fresh ideas for new collections. What inspires your work?
I get a lot of inspirations from my surroundings, whether it is music I listen to, movies I watch, places I visit or people I meet. New York is such a diverse and vibrant city where there is always something going on, living in the city alone is already a great source of inspiration.
What are your stand-out moments of your career to date?
It was the greatest pleasure to have my collection open the Parsons MFA show at Milk Studio during New York Fashion Week. The graduate collection was the culmination of my two-year study at Parsons and I was very grateful to have the opportunity to not just share my work with industry professionals and the media, but also to have my collection open the show.
What is the best piece of advice you have received from your mentors?
Design not only for production, but also for fun. I think as a designer it is very easy to get absorbed into the design process and become very product or goal-oriented. As I work on a collection I like to remind myself that the process should be enjoyable and only if I enjoy the process and have fun with it can I come up with a collection that I love.
There are many young people who are desperately trying to breakout in the industry. What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a fashion designer?
It may sound cliché but I’d say try to stay true to yourself. It could be tempting to follow trends or be influenced by what is popular, but at the end of the day it is the designer’s own design identity that matters the most.
What projects are you working on right now?
I’m working on the Fall/Winter 2015 collection now and I’m really excited about it. In terms of style and aesthetics I’d like it to be a continuation of my graduate Spring/Summer 2015 collection, but definitely with new silhouettes and focus on fabric innovation.