As a unique, skillful, and deft designer, Jenny Xiao embraces diversity in every aspect of the design process. Her namesake label brings together a myriad of influences: an upbringing in China, a learning environment at the renowned Parsons School of Design, and now her own fashion and design playground to explore, something that she deems as “organized chaos.”
Every design comes from the strong desire to create and design clothes that “unlink” the stereotypical, traditional forms we know and the binaries they exist within. Her latest collection “Birdie,” based on the tricky and narrowly unattainable golf stroke, embodies this concept. Inspired by her father, “Birdie” celebrates the beauty of golf as a gender-free and age friendly sport.
Schön! chats with Xiao about her namesake brand, her latest collection, and more.
Can you tell Schön! about yourself and what led you to start your namesake brand?
I want this brand to have more identity with a mixed culture name I have. Jenny is not my real name, but I have adapted to the name since young and believe it is part of my identity. Just like the different cultures I have adapted, I want this brand to embrace all kinds of people and all kinds of culture.
What is the ethos behind your brand?
Positive energy is what I always believe my brand should have. My personal ethos for life is to be happy. Happiness can be different for everyone. For me, it is to do what I love and not to be constrained by society and express the fun and exciting energy through my work.
You were born and raised in China and studied at Parsons. How did these two places influence you as a designer?
China taught me how to not show myself, be polite to everyone and hide my emotions. Parsons taught me how to express myself and be who I am. Both places give me a balance and it was also a process of my struggles and growth in self-expression, self-love and self-exploration.
Your work pulls from your own cultural heritage and upbringing. Why has that been so apparent in your designs?
We all have or are being influenced by surroundings, people, environment, language, and culture, my cultural heritage comes naturally in my design process. They have qualities that I would love to see in myself.
Are there specific artists or craftsmen that have influenced your work?
Artist Yayoi Kusama is always my inspiration. I love her boldness in her installations and drawings. Loewe’s craftsmanship also inspires me to learn more about the skills I have not yet tried.
You enjoy working with unpredictable materials and describe your work as “organized chaos”. What was it like discovering this process and what’s the most difficult aspect of it?
For many designers, perfectionism is built into their personalities. So am I. I cannot bear to see unintentional chaos, I felt a duty to organize, minimize, then expand it in order.
Is there something you’ve done differently with your designs that has differed from previous garments?
None of my collections are completely cohesive. You will realize they look different but similar in the mood I create. This collection , Birdie, is so far the most different project I have done. Mainly because I want to challenge myself, letting go of my controlling sense in the early researching period, just to see how deep I can find my way of creativity in the sea of research, and how well I can pull it back by reorganizing and reconstructing different ideas for a more cohesive and complete collection.
You aim to challenge stereotypes through your designs; how are you ensuring you are doing so?
In order to challenge stereotypes, you need to know enough about stereotypes and try to look for a breakthrough to create a new imaginary image that no one has expected. The idea of creating new but familiar designs is what motivates my creative process.
When you picture the ‘Jenny Xiao’ wearer, what do you envision them thinking or feeling while wearing your clothing?
The ‘Jenny Xiao’ wearers are often out of the ordinary world, they feel different in the way that nothing can destroy their good mood, every individual is a collaborator when wearing ‘jenny Xiao’. I want them to feel joy and comfort.
Lastly, how do you see the ‘Jenny Xiao’ label growing and evolving in the future?
I believe ‘Jenny Xiao’ will become a lovable brand for those who are tired of the old self, and always have the courage to try something new. This brand will also keep updating the definition of “new.”