Fashion

Breaking Style Boundaries.

fashion by Xuanxuan Li interview by Luca Babini

Xuanxuan Li is a graduate of Parsons School of Fashion. Her senior thesis collection feels like the work of a seasoned designer. There is tremendous attention to detail, a coherent vision from design to marketing and a great image concept. Expect her in stores very soon…



You grew up in China, tell us a bit about your early inspiration, and was there a particular moment when you decided to go into fashion?

I was born and grew up in Qingdao (Tsingtao), China. My parents have been running two home textile companies that have been exporting to the U.S.A and Europe since I was about 10 years old. So I have been visiting their showrooms and factories since then. I witnessed lots of fabric development, embroidery, printing, dying etc. and fell in love with the different processes. I thought I was going to study sculpture or print-making when I was a freshman at Parsons, and did not decide to go into fashion till I finished my freshman year.

Xuanxuan Li photo Luca Babini

Xuanxuan Li photo Luca Babini

China has a powerful tradition of beautiful imagery and costumes making, is that influential in your design choices?
I came to America when I was 15. Although I was raised in China, I am mostly influenced by European and Japanese fashion. In the future, I would love to read and learn more about Chinese traditional costumes making, which is very dynamic and complex.

©GAO WEI

©GAO WEI

There has been a lot of talk about the latest Shanghai Fashion Shows, what is your take on that? Are we at global standards yet? Where do you see the Chinese fashion industry going?
Over the last few years, China has shown great interest for luxury brands. It’s fascinating how the Shanghai Fashion Shows have given equal opportunity to western designers and home-grown, native fashion design talents to showcase their creative collections. Shanghai is becoming the fashion capital of China. In China, the increasing numbers of fashion competitions that open to international participants and the collaborations between Chinese fashion schools and European and American fashion schools, are very encouraging for young designers. The Chinese fashion industry is on the path to to become more and more global, changing the concept of “Made in China” to “Created in China.”

©GAO WEI

©GAO WEI

We had a quick chat about how the industry has changed globally during the very years that you were in school, what is your analysis of that?
The fashion industry changed from showing only two collections to many more every year, new trends are coming out every week. This kind of “fast fashion” expects the consumers to purchase as many garments as possible and as quickly as possible. Therefore I see that the quality of the products (like dying, printing, laser cutting etc. and the fabric choices) dramatically decreases and the garments fall apart easily. I really appreciate how the teachers at Parsons are still teaching and reminding students to consider quality and sustainability when designing.

©GAO WEI

©GAO WEI

Tell us about the challenges for a young designer like you in the work place.
For me, the biggest challenge is to be motivated and dedicated to bring my inspiration and my collections together seamlessly. Also, time management is a big challenge because I have to respect a strict schedule and enough time for pattern-making, manipulating fabrics and sewing.

©GAO WEI

©GAO WEI

If you could choose, would you start your own collection in China, the US or Europe?
I would love to start my own collection in China since I would like to give back what I learnt from Parsons. The fashion industry is steadily growing in China, creating opportunities for for new and talented fashion designers.

©GAO WEI

©GAO WEI

What is your superstar list of designers?
My favorite designers are Comme des Garçons and Rick Owens. I would say that both designers are more like artists rather than just fashion designers. For every season on the runways, their garment styles are very unconventional and bold. It’s all about metamorphosis, from the silhouette to fabric manipulations. Although some of their clothing are not very wearable, their garments are designed and envisioned to be hung beautifully as artistic sculptures in a gallery.

©GAO WEI

©GAO WEI

How important is sustainability in your design process? Would you sacrifice sustainability for the sake of aesthetics?
Sustainability is very important for me. I think that the designer should legitimize ‘sustainability’ as both a trend and a vision, which will promote its popularity with both consumers and the industry alike. To solidify the idea that “sustainable is fashionable”, every party involved in the process must take an active role in enforcing the concept, especially designers who are the starting point with their design decisions and whose role also includes making sustainable products appealing to the market. For example, for my senior thesis collection, instead of cutting the lace according to the garment patterns, I cut the lace according to its own original design and pattern, and by hand stitching and machine felting on top of the suiting fabrics and crocheting them together with yarns, I reduced the amount of wasted lace fabric to zero. I included the idea of sustainability in the concept of my collection itself– the inclusion of used materials-such as the suiting fabrics from my father and his friends’ suits, highlights the degeneration and decadence of my muse, Dorian Gray. I believe that there are always ways to produce beautiful garments in a sustainable way.

©GAO WEI

©GAO WEI

About the shopping experience, do you think consumers will eventually buy mostly online?
I think some will, some won’t. The consumers, who want to feel the fabrics and see how they fall on their bodies, will shop in the stores. However, I have friends who started their retail stores online in China and the business is going very well.

©GAO WEI

©GAO WEI

Do you believe Social Media is a valid fashion-marketing tool?
Since the fashion trend is constantly chainging, social media can bring great gain to the business, especially if the market is targeted to young people. Posting comments and votes is also helps the consumer decision. Social Media can reach a larger audience online.

Photographer: ©GAO WEI  Art Director: Wei Yin/ Hongyan Yuan  Make-UP/Hair: Jenny Du  Model: Kira/ Xiaoting Wang

Xuanxuan Li Website

Add your comment