Menswear designer Tian Yu Li takes the story of ‘Waiting for Godot’ and translates this into a meticulously cut menswear collection. As he boxes up the topics of mental health dealt within the story, he pays close attention to the longevity of his designs. The London College of Fashion graduate bring his story to life on a stage, and now too to Harper’s Bazaar UK as his work is featured in the September issue. Read along to discover how Tian Yu Li incorporates sustainability as he takes storytelling to the next level.
Your collection strongly incorporates history and culture, why did you choose to work within these themes?
First of all, today's fashion trends are diversified. As a Chinese student studying in the UK, understanding and accepting different cultural history is something I work on every single day. On the other hand, fashion design itself is a reflection of history and the transmission of culture. Today's fashion design elements and details originally stem from history, and the trend’s that come with that are derived from different cultures. Therefore, to become a successful fashion designer, it is essential to understand the history and culture connected to clothing.
"Today's fashion design elements and details originally stem from history, and the trend’s that come with that are derived from different cultures"
How do you go about collating inspiration and colours for future collections?
Firstly, I need to be in the right headspace, having both a high-spirit as well as feeling relaxed. I will often observe everyday life, by standing on the street to look for inspiration. Once I focus on a topic that interests me, I extract the colour model and analyse the colour to grasp which material will best emulate it. After I’ve decided on a colour palette and materials, I summarise my choices in my sketchbook and start writing down my findings through academic research.
Your collection incorporates box-like suit shapes that frame your work, what was the inspiration behind this?
The Absurd, my work is based on the theme of ‘En Attendant Godot’, which reflects people’s confused attitude towards life and themselves after World War II. The ridiculous drama created in this state of mind is dedicated to the performance of absurdity, uselessness and split personalities. I want to express people imprisoned bodies, the decay of mental health and the irrational behaviour that comes with this. To represent this, I incorporated box-like suiting to frame and shape the body.
"I want to express people imprisoned bodies, the decay of mental health and the irrational behaviour that comes with this"
Your collection also provides a more sustainable alternative to fashion design, how is this implemented throughout your design process?
As an emerging designer, I am very concerned with the sustainable development within the fashion industry. By maintaining and offering high-quality design connotations and production processes, consumers retain and wear garments for a longer period. Apart from craftsmanship, I focus on more sustainable development of fabrics, I opt for more durable materials when designing clothing. With my collection, I had the chance to collaborate with fabric design companies and experiment with new types of sustainable fabric.
What made you very passionate about the importance of design quality and artistry?
This is a central topic within menswear design, namely the relationship between art and commercialisation. Fashion is both a business as well as an art form. As an emerging designer, my dream is to establish an independent fashion label where both art and activity coexist. I’m dedicated to combining menswear design, with more artistic ideas, cultural trends with a deep-rooted historical origin. This way, gentlemen can wear more tasteful and exquisite designs.
"I’m dedicated to combining menswear design, with more artistic ideas, cultural trends with a deep-rooted historical origin"
See Tianyu Li's full collection
Words by Lupe Baeyens