For many Third Culture Kids, the curiosity of one's ancestral heritage is a growing enigma. Embracing her Third Culture Kid status, Melanie Yau, a British-born Chinese fashion design graduate from the University of South Wales, had always been genuinely interested in her roots – places she visited as a child had an instantaneous familiarity yet at the same time sowed feelings of displacement. To get in touch with her family history, Melanie started watching Chinese period dramas from an early age.

Fashion and history had always shared a mutually beneficial kinship, where looking back helped fashion move forward. For Melanie’s first collection, this kinship was the core of her inspiration, “ The over exaggeration of Chinese period costumes mesmerised me. Traditional wear only ever went out of fashion due to the inconvenience of the clothes, and I wanted to reinvent that”. Combining her love of origami with elements from her Chinese and British birthright, she created a gender-neutral collection of modernised traditional wear.

Inspired by what many netizens dubbed to be one of the best period dramas to date, The Empress of China, Melanie drew elements from the character’s costumes. She kept the dramatic flair and the extensive detailing and focused these two key components solely on the top half of the body.


On deciding which traditional elements to keep, Melanie used ties instead of conventional buttons to fasten her garments – a simple way of simultaneously decorating and securing. She then worked backwards. By first folding origami flowers using different methods, she then worked on deconstructing it to create three-dimensional designs that could grace different parts of the garment whilst staying erect and in unison. To balance out the drama, the bottom half focused on tailored clean lines, “So that the drama fades out into nothing”. Reworked fisherman and Japanese style trousers became the foundation, with a slight adaptation of the original patterns, Melanie was able to incorporate a built in waist tie.