Astory of contagion and the disastrous effect of virus infection provides the inspiration and back-story to Singapore-based designer, Xie QianQian’s collection submitted to iD fashion week this year.
The 23-year-old designer is in her last year of study, completing a Bachelor of Honours at Nanyang College of Fines Arts (in collaboration with the University of East London), and is excited by the prospect of coming to New Zealand this March to show her work in front of a panel of prestigious judges.
QianQian’s collection is all about taking minimalist, masculine shapes and maximizing unexpected details. She took some time out before her travel to New Zealand to speak to Sly on the Wall.
SOTW: Where did your fashion journey begin?
QQ: It started when I did a set of 5 fashion illustrations inspired by Singapore architecture for my secondary school art class in 2011. The illustrations got me thinking, what if I can make them come alive? I was really interested in making these avant-garde looking illustrations into practical and wearable garments [so] I enrolled in the Diploma in Apparel Design and Merchandising at Temasek Polytechnic in 2012.
SOTW: Are your designs a reflection of your own personal style, if so, why/ why not?
QQ: Yes, definitely! I love minimalism with a twist. I like to see interesting details and construction on my clothes, but overall it should be effortless, without looking over done. I would [usually] try on the finished garment and feel it from the perspective of the wearer, instead of the designer. Therefore, it is natural for me to reflect my own style on to my designs.
SOTW: How did you come up with the idea to look at the theme of ‘Contagion’ for the collection that you’ll be showing at i-D?
QQ: I started on ‘Contagion’ in 2014, which is the year of the Ebola outbreak. I remembered watching Ebola-related news on TV almost everyday and that sparked my design ideas. I am often inspired by current affairs.
SOTW: What were the challenges in translating this theme into the garments and what did you start with?
QQ: I wasn’t trying to create a collection that is virus-like, colourful or complicated—it would not be my style. I wanted to show people how virus parasites multiply and become disastrous really quickly [and that] these movements translate into irregular shapes, and unexpected construction (and placement) of the garment details. The challenge lies in showing an abstract idea of the virus infection, without using anything virus-like.
SOTW: I love that you want to empower women and encourage them to embrace change. Where does this motivation come from and what do you think today’s women need in their wardrobes?
QQ: Fashion not only inspires self-expression, but also our culture and identity. They way we dress reflects who we are. I want to see more women wearing designer clothing that has a certain level of exclusivity. I want them to feel confident and creative when people compliment their clothes. Dressing well is the first step to embracing art [and] beauty and embracing change in their life and career. Forget about the essentials, women should fill their wardrobe with beautiful statement pieces and build an identity through the way they dress.
SOTW: How would you describe your design process?
QQ: I usually start my design process with images in mind, and then I manipulate these images on a sketchbook. From there, I start sketching. Sometimes I work with the mannequin stands [and] sometimes I work with the fabrics first. Experimentation is the key factor in my design process.
SOTW: What is happening in the Singapore fashion scene at the moment in terms of trends and design?
QQ: Singapore used to feature more brands from other countries—rather than those from Singapore [shown] at Singapore Fashion Week—as a result of the small apparel manufacturing industry here. But I’m glad that more and more emerging young talents are making an effort in building homegrown labels despite the difficulties. I wish the government could see the fashion industry as a ‘soft power’ for economy growth in Singapore, and that more support could be given to the local fashion scene.
SOTW: Which local Singaporean and international designers inspire you?
SOTW: You’re completing your Honours year at the Nanyang Academy of Fine arts—how important is it to gain those extra qualifications?
QQ: [With] Singapore being the leading financial hub, employers tend to look at paper qualifications first before they decide whether to have an interview with you. In fact, if you have excellent paper qualifications you will always stand out among the crowd. For me, gaining more skills and design experience in my BA is more valuable than paper qualification.
SOTW: Where do you see yourself in five years time and where do you plan to take your career?
QQ: Knowing the challenges faced by start-ups in Singapore, I want to kick-start the manufacturing industry [here]. With my network in Guangzhou, China, I wish to provide a one-stop supply chain service such as fabric sourcing, manufacturing and other customisable services to help fashion start-ups scale as they grow. I want to empower local labels to focus on the value creation activities of their business without worrying so much about production difficulties. With a smoother manufacturing industry in Singapore it would mean that I can start my label much more easily. I’m very confident in setting up my own label in the near future.
SOTW: Finish this sentence: I want my designs…
QQ: …to inspire.
Check out QianQian’s websites below: