From today until Friday I will be republishing interviews with some of the San Francisco’s Academy of Art University graduates (Wu Di, Farida Khan and Jeanette Au). I recently did these interviews for Zoot Magazine.
Graduate shows have turned into the most exciting events of many fashion weeks, the places where you can spot real talents and see genuine innovation and fashion creativity at its best, with no marketing restrictions and anxieties about sales.
Central Saint Martins’ MA graduation show may steal the scene in London, but the graduation show put on by the Academy of Art University has become since 2005 a steady appointment during New York Fashion Week for the American and international fashion industry professionals.
It is undeniable that, fashion-wise the San Francisco-based institution has gone from strength to strength. Internationality set the mood during The Academy’s latest fashion show, with nine designers coming from all over the world and presenting their unique and distinctive vision.
Clean lines and dark shades dominated: Amy Bond transformed complex shapes inspired by construction into minimalist silhouettes, creating practical silk georgette, silk charmeuse and Schoeller-Aeroshell dresses in a neutral palette based on gray, ivory and black with splashes of aubergine, while South Korean Kate Y.K. Lee moved from architecture designing garments defined by a sculptural and sharp silhouette.
Focusing on Plato’s theory stating that the highest form of beauty can be explained by principles of mathematics, the young designer layered his ethereal silk mohair dresses and tops characterised by a basic rectangular shape, on white shirts and matched them with sand cashmere coats.
Layering was also the keyword to unlock the collection of pattern maker Jade Juanyu Liu. The latter moved from French collage artist Damien Blottière, a master in creating shadows and spaces through layers. Liu played with different fabrics and materials - wool, jersey and fur - to reproduce Blottière’s technique in her gray, black, and copper bonded microfiber tops and dresses.
Taiwanese-born graphic designer Deanna Pei-Ju Lo opted instead for a collection based on black and navy blue shades inspired by masculine shapes and silhouettes and more specifically by the look of Teddy Boys, but employing luxurious fabrics including lambskin and cotton velvet, hinting at femininity through her choice of materials.
A honourable mention goes to South Korean pattern maker Donghyuk Dan Kim who presented the only menswear collection in the show.
Vintage military uniforms and the American West were the starting points, but the designer managed to reinterpret these garments in a uniquely modern way coming up with oilcloth shirts, leather vests, and jackets with padded areas and leather inserts, alternating cotton leggings to sensible pants, playing with volumes and reinventing the classic military oilcloth cape into a modernly urban piece.
Interview with Academy of Art University graduate Wu Di
Born and raised in China, after graduating from Shenyang Normal University and starting her design studio in her home country, Wu Di decided to continue her studies at the Academy of Art University and pursue an MFA in Fashion Design.
Her graphic collection, inspired by geometric figures and by the work of artist and printmaker Aaron Coleman that mixes patterns found in nature with man-made technological and architectural elements, features versatile pieces such as coats or dresses with parts that can be zipped off to become functional jackets or separates, and elegant cashmere and double-face wool knits with angular silhouettes and asymmetric tweed patches matched with pencil skirts.
Who has been the greatest influence on your career choices?
Wu Di: I started to enjoy fashion design as a child. I remember I liked making clothes for my dolls. My mum also played an important role in my choices since she is a great knitter. Among the contemporary fashion houses that I like there are Céline, Lanvin and Calvin Klein.
Can you tell us more about your creative process?
Wu Di: Before designing, I research a lot my inspirations. I also carry out a lot of researches about fabrics both visiting stores in person and searching things online. This is a really interesting part of my design process. Then I do some sketches and small samples of the details in my garments. I try to make sure that all the elements - design, fabrics, colours, details - go well one with the other and then I start making the entire collection.
How did you feel about showcasing your collection at the Academy of the Art fashion show?
Wu Di: I was so excited to get this opportunity and be part of New York Fashion Week. I was feeling nervous because my collection would be the first to be showcased on the Academy of Art runway. Therefore, I really wanted it to set a great mood for the entire show. My family, friends and my professors from the Academy of Art University gave me a lot of support and encouragement. I got great feedback after the show and that really made me happy.
Can you tell us more about your collection, is there a theme behind it?
Wu Di: I was inspired by architecture and by the work of Indianapolis-based artist and printmaker Aaron Coleman and his use of complex geometric patterns and shapes. The collection features angular silhouettes and geometric patterns, which I created using cashmere knits and double-face wool. I opted for luxury fabrics in the entire collection.
All images by Randy Brooke/WireImage
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