What’s interesting about the next generation of Chinese designers is that many of them draw from their lives and experiences in the West to create a new style for the East. Someone whose work I have been following for a while is Yang Li. Like his counterparts Huishan Zhang and Masha Ma, his style is not firmly rooted in Chinese culture but I think he will define how we dress in the future.
Born in Beijing, educated in Australia and London, and launching from Paris, Yang’s edge not only comes from his international background but from his unique approach to the craft which is inspired by old school modernists like Helmut Lang.
“My line is more of a quiet shout – I try to give a serious and intelligent reaction to clothing rather than creating something that’s more instant. The clothes do not scream a certain reference but the beauty is in the subtlety,” he says.
Li always dreamed of becoming a basketball player. Sport later inspired him to pursue a career as a designer when he noticed his peers using clothes to represent and express themselves within the sports community.
In 2007, he was given a scholarship to attend Central Saint Martin’s in London, where he interned with respected designers like Gareth Pugh. School however was not enough to keep him interested, so he dropped out and headed to Belgium where he secured a job with Raf Simons. By the time he returned to London in 2010, he was ready to launch is own collection.
“Good design for me is about timing – it’s about when to propose a certain silhouette. Quality is part of the design for me – you may have a great idea but if you can’t translate it in terms of quality and finishing then what’s the point?” he says.
Li’s eponymous label is slowly creating buzz among editors for its minimalist yet luxurious designs that play with proportions. Razor sharp 1990s minimalist silhouettes are achieved through double-face construction (an expensive time-laborious technique that involves connecting two fabrics with a fine thread rather than a seam), sporty techno fabrics and elongated shapes. He subverts conventions of clothing by mixing machine and hand made details on one piece.
For his autumn/winter 2013 collection, he transformed classics such as the biker jacket with his own modern edge. Cropped jackets featured transparent mesh pockets and were paired with dramatic floor length skirts. A biker jacket was left open in the back and could be adjusted thanks to cord laces. The beauty was all in the details especially the fabrics including lacquered mohair wool, pinstriped Lurex and bonded wool fleece. He’s one to watch (and collect).