Two recent graduates from Academy of Art University School of Fashion, Amy Hsu Tzu Chen (BFA Fashion Design) and Xiaowen Wendy Zhang (BFA Knitwear Design), were named finalists of the 24th Edition of International Lab of Mittelmoda The Fashion Award. The duo, along with 22 others, were selected from 15,781 entries submitted by students studying at 676 schools across 67 different countries. Fashion School Daily is proud to note that Academy of Art University is the only school from the United States to have representation at the Tuesday, June 20th Fashion Show and Award Ceremony during Milano Moda Uomo (Menswear Fashion Week) in Milan, Italy where Amy and Wendy will present their collaborative collection. Gary Miller, Director, School of Fashion, salutes this achievement as further solidifying the Academy’s reputation as one of the leading fashion institutions worldwide. We wish Amy and Wendy good luck and promise to follow their journey closely! In the meantime, we caught up with the busy collaborators to find out more about their experience.
FSD: What were your reactions to the news?!
Wendy: It still feels a bit surreal to me. The efforts do pay off! We feel very honored that our work is appreciated and we are extremely thankful for all the support from our instructors along the way because without them, this would not have happened.
Amy: My first thought was how is it even possible?! I was at lunch when the news popped up on the website. I was alone, mumbling and trembling with all sorts of emotions, tears rolling down my face. I was remembering all the hard work over the years. Wow, a person who came from such a small place can actually accomplish something so big!
FSD: What inspired your Mittelmoda submission?
Wendy: The collection Beauty of Withering Mind was inspired by the iconic film Farewell my Concubine. We found beauty in decay and destruction, demonstrating the rise and fall of culture with brocade and raffia and plastic yarn. Knitting, felting, embroidery, bleaching, and beading gave us depth and rich textures. We celebrate traditional craftsmanship and our own heritage in a fresh and modern way. In terms of knitwear, I focused on alternative materials to develop shiny, gorgeous textiles. People can hardly tell it’s a fashion and knitwear collaboration project since the design and textures flow so effortlessly together.
Amy: The story is about a Chinese opera performer whose beautiful soul is trapped inside these gorgeous costumes and very strict rules. During my studies at the Academy, I’ve always wanted to create something that was not only beautiful, but also meaningful. I had a chance to produce complex textures to convey the idea that suffering can sow seeds of beautiful creation. It is important to never lose hope.
FSD: What was your creative process like?
Amy: It began with researching the history of Chinese opera and costumes from different eras. I also collected photographic records of different people from the homeless and ordinary workers to the aristocracy. Then I collaged them with modern clothes to build the silhouettes and spent lots of time playing around with a variety of fabric samples.
Wendy: I was more concerned with how knitwear could move at its best. Traditional Chinese garments have certain curves that are very hard to achieve with knitwear. I sketched the designs and draped swatches. In the production process, technical and aesthetic aspects must be considered at the same time: the biggest panel width the machine could achieve; how the grain lines switch and the fabric weight changes the draping; and so on. We had to improvise at lot and weren’t 100% satisfied until the very last second.
FSD: What is your secret to successful teamwork?
Amy: Good communication is always the key. Wendy and I have known each other since the beginning of our fashion design program; we hung out, went to workshops, and took classes together; we share very similar cultural heritage and the passion for what we are doing.
Wendy: It started with our similar eye for textures, colors, and volume. The key to collaboration is mutual respect. It was a big risk for both of us, honestly. Amy was backing me up with her solid effort and I tried to enrich her designs much as I could.
FSD: Next stop – Milan, Italy. What awaits you in this global fashion capital?
Wendy: More research! [Laughs]. There will be a lot of gorgeous designs, talented designers and interesting people. Knitwear is so much fun with zillion possibilities. I can’t wait to get more inspiration! I don’t know what I will gain and that’s the most exciting part.
Amy: To be honest, I am still trying to calm myself down. I will be moving to Paris afterwards to continue my studies at Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale, so the most exciting aspect for me is the opportunity to meet all the other passionate talents and experience powerful energy striving to create beautiful things.
FSD: What advice would you give to current Academy students?
Amy: You can never experiment enough! Always remember why you set out to become a designer. We speak in a unique language of beauty. So, cherish the opportunity to realize your dream.
Wendy: Dare to dream big and in case your dream comes true, remember to appreciate everyone who supported you! Then, keep going.
Interview by Nivetha Sundar (MA Fashion Journalism)