Combining workwear with emotion design is Global Young Talent Yijia Lee. Focusing on sustainability, she freely mixes light and heavy fabrics with soft and darker colours, symbolising the mix of past and present. The Kingston School of Art graduate found inspiration from workwear, and how she can deconstruct the silhouettes and rebuild them in a more sustainable manner. Her work has been featured in the April issue of Harper’s Bazaar, read on to find out how she makes vintage come to life.
Tell us a bit about yourself, you’re originally from China, yet moved to The United Kingdom to complete a course in fashion design at the prestigious Kingston University, what inspired you to move overseas and study fashion?
Studying abroad is always in my plan. I would like to experience different cultures and I believe that it would broaden my horizon and inspire me something about fashion. London is a city which is full of art, I gained some amazing memories in the UK. Besides, during the academic year at Kingston University, I discovered myself and foster a broader understanding of fashion, especially in fashion history and sustainable fashion. I spent a lot of time in the school library, which has good fashion resources that can let me learn some interesting knowledge about art.
What’s striking about your work, is the bright use of colour, what inspired this fresh and loud colour-palette?
I have imitated the colours from nature, like dust and soil to create a sense of ageing. If the audiences noticed the value of memory of clothing may change their attitude towards this faster and faster fashion industry, that is why I introduced plant dye in this collection.
"If the audiences noticed the value of memory of clothing may change their attitude towards this faster and faster fashion industry, that is why I introduced plant dye in this collection."
Your final line-up deconstructs work-wear, what was your source of inspiration behind this?
I found some books like The Vintage Showroom and Vintage Menswear from the school library and discovered some interesting stories behind work-wear, which is inspired me a lot and let me rethink the value of fashion. Apart from wearing and expression, the value of clothing also carries the connection between the wearer and the clothes. Stains and holes would appear with people’s movement, these results are more pronounced in workwear. Also, I interested in the process of garment making in that factory, they tied those unfinished panels up and lied them in a corner.
“ Apart from wearing and expression, the value of clothing also carries the connection between the wearer and the clothes. Stains and holes would appear with people’s movement, these results are more pronounced in workwear.”
Your collection features a unique mix of light and dark, both in colour palette and fabric choice, what inspired this juxta-position?
The colour will deconstruct a garment in visualize directly. I used black tea as the main ingredient of natural dye because I was born in a city that is famous for tea and I love the colour of it. The pattern of tie-dye is irreproducible because the position of the string and the subtle changes in the dyeing process will change the final result. In this collection, I tested some colours on different fabrics after plant dye and selected natural silk as the main fabric and the pattern is visional on it.
What have you learnt during your time at university and what tips do you have for future fashion design students?
I dig myself and discovered my interest in those projects which I have done in the year of Kingston. This experience is wonderful and valuable especially when I solve some problems with my tutors. I think most MA students may have some questions and curious about fashion after some years of learning, so goals and plans are important. Last but not least, passion.
Discover Yijia Li's full collection
Words by Lupe Baeyens