The extraordinary Zhouyi Li debuts her ‘see through me, feeling you’ collection. In this Schön! editorial captured by photographer Zane Gan and styled by Yen Nguyen, the talented San Francisco-based designer from Jiang Xi, China displays an innovative collection configured of three-dimensional shapes and silhouettes.
When it came to finding inspiration, the incredible Academy of Art University graduate describes that, “researching in the library, the sculptures of Richard Serra attracted me a lot. Every seemingly simple sculpture surrounded me with a unique feeling which was mysterious but depressing. Ideas about designing my collection began to take shape in my mind and that was the moment when I outlined the concept.” Zhouyi explains that, “the whole collection [was] set out to challenge gravity, the sense of balance, weight and that [the] piercing or intersecting of solid shapes developed in the design”. The creator of the eponymous brand, ‘Li Zhouyi’, states that her ambition was, “to let those cubes go through the body.”
Zhouyi explains that the incentive behind an exclusively black and red collection arose after researching and consulting a multitude of resources on the fabrics and colours of printing and dyeing. Finally, she describes that, “wool was chosen to make up most parts of the design for its texture, which is appropriate for Richard Serra’s sculpture. Furthermore, the colour of the whole collection is gradually-fading rust and black, which is inspired by the colour of the finish developed by Serra in his sculptures.” She continues, expressing that, “at first, I tried to ombre-dye the wool myself! I found that despite the high expense and long time, the colour of the second-coloured wool fabric could not be fixed.”
Subsequently, Zhouyi reveals that, “some research led me to an experimental digital printing plant in Shaoxing city in China, where the digital printing could be used on wool. The manager of the plant couldn’t guarantee me 100% success, as the technique is not fully developed yet and still in the research and infancy stage. The good news was that the result was satisfying and cost-effective, as it took me only half the time I would use by choosing the dyeing approach, which created the time needed for pattern making, toiles and fittings.”
The skilled fashion designer discloses that this collection is not available for consumers. Nevertheless, she tells that, “it demonstrates my design concept, which is that, to make clothes is to build a house right on your body.”
However, the entire process of creating this collection three dimensionally was a challenge for the young designer, as she expresses that, “I was a beginner at including cubic shapes into the body. It was weeks of experimenting and I made a mess when I started making cubes, but I learnt something new each time until I had developed the techniques that worked for me”. She describes that upon her first try at using interfacing, the cotton filling failed to support the heavy wool. This consequently “left an impression of a sense of stiffness [to her]”.
Nonetheless, after much deliberation and investigation in regards to the samples, her teacher suggested that she add some polyester boning on each side of the cube. She describes that she tried this several times, before deciding to “use a layer of thick interfacing on the wool”. Which she mounted with “another thin layer of muslin and a layer of stiff interfacing and polyester boning.” Finally, to finish the garments Zhouyi “combined machine sewing with hand sewing, [because her goal of] hiding all these seams inside the cubes could not be fulfilled merely with a sewing machine, an example being the seam connecting the underside of the cube and the shoulder”.
When asked who her target audience is Zhouyi Li explains that, “in the design of my collection there are many cubes on the shoulders, and on the front and back of the garments. For me, the cubes are like the trouble and plight in life. You have to overcome these obstacles without losing your balance.” She continues, describing that whilst “consumers wearing my clothes might find themselves a bit limited in their movement and unable to have a seat, or even to walk, they have to stay aware to hide their unease.”
Concluding whom she wishes to address with her designs, Zhouyi admirably details that, “[she is] hoping that everyone wearing the garments could be empowered to face the pressure and difficulties they might encounter in their life.” Moreover, the creator outlines that in order to counter balance the structural and robust silhouette of the garments, she has “added some pleats, to highlight the pleats while walking and show the elegance and confidence of women.”
Zhouyi reveals that next she hopes to set up her own brand and, by virtue of the indisputable skill and talent that she has shown so early on in her career, we are eager to see what follows and watch her flourish in the fashion industry.
The look book of San Francisco based fashion designer Zhouyi Li has been produced by the New York based team of