Designer Nisi Liu takes us across the world to welcome us to Kaidan, a story inspired by classic films and the designer’s global history. By embodying the ideas of film, Liu channels a sort of otherworldly spirit, beckoning the tragic moods of cinema forth into a warped yet still utterly naturalistic world. Schön! spoke to Liu about the designs and the story of the piece.
Can you introduce us to Kaidan and your inspiration for these pieces?
The story originally happened in Japan. It tells the story of a husband abandoning his wife because he falls in love with other women, and then his wife turns into a resentful spirit. My inspiration comes from the original Kaidan story, but what I express in the collection is the story of the husband going out because of the war and the wife becoming a ghost… Since the backstory is located in Japan, the overall characteristics will be more integrated into the oriental elements. I was inspired by those fragile loves; they are fleeting but very charming.
How did you first become familiar with Kaidan? What does it mean to you?
I watched Kaidan by Masaki Kobayashi a long time ago. This movie is not known for its scary scenes, but it uses historical materials to build a horrible atmosphere and aesthetic. For me, the characters in Kaidan’s stories are self-portraits. Through these stories, they show the completeness and incompleteness of human nature. These things also made me understand that clothing is actually a special medium, and its metaphor and storytelling exceed its own value.
What do you find so captivating about film, and how do you incorporate that into your work?
Tragic themes make me feel both compassion and fear. The source of these emotions actually carries from childhood to adulthood. For me, the inner child and dreams are meaningful, even as the outer things continue to decline, deteriorate, and corrupt. I want to fulfil my wishes with a beautiful, miraculous scene with a high degree of fantasy. Like in this collection, I use almost all silk vintage kimono fabrics, which is like completing an impossible wedding for the imaginary protagonist.
You were born in Jiangxi. How does that influence your designs?
In the place where I was born, buildings are often renovated or rebuilt, especially in the village. I like to wander around small towns. Every time I see those run-down scenes, I always fantasise about the people who have lived here or what has happened here. These habits accompany my growth, so I prefer to use historical materials in my design.
You focus on creating a certain ambiance in these photos. How did you achieve this?
I am a loyal horror movie lover, and I am more inclined to look to movie scenes in ambiance creation. Just as I mentioned above, that fragile emotion is part of the source of inspiration. The overall mood is built around this theme, and just like in those over-interpreted movies, there will be such metaphors in the whole scene, like a judgment… The deliberately elongated shadows that can be seen everywhere in the scene not only express the concept of life and death, but also the deceased’s longing for his lover.
How do you define your own aesthetic?
For me, whether it is design style or my own aesthetics, it is not a question, because the issue of aesthetics or style actually exists. I grew up as an Oriental. It is not an interpretable thing in my creation, because, in my opinion, it is in my life… It is difficult to use words to summarise.
What has been inspiring you lately?
I returned to China from London very early, and the epidemic has dealt a huge blow to the entire industry. For a long time, I could only paint at home. The most inspiring thing for me during this period should be to see how far I can go, because as a womenswear student, I have not tried male-structured garments — there are too many differences between the two — but my current goal, which should be possible, is to make one more series of collections while completing the graduation design.
What are your plans for the future? Ever thought of establishing a brand?
At this stage, of course, I hope to successfully complete my studies. For me, it takes a while to build a brand. I still need time to settle and think about what it can bring as a designer. For this collection, my starting point is sustainability. Most of the fabrics come from kimonos in the 1980s. One kimono may only complete one garment. Although I love this way of making clothes, it is actually very dangerous in a capitalist environment. This is also a question worth considering.
Explore more from Nisi Liu via Instagram.
fashion. Nisi Liu
models. Maggie Li Dongju + Zhichuan Hu @ Paras Talent Management
hair. Ronnie Wang
make up. Yo Kokokoko
photography assistant. Xinyu Jiang
assistant. Yutingyi Hu