Intentionally very small in size, the two-year-old Parsons Masters of Fine Arts Fashion Design and Society program selects and trains some of the best young designers in the world. Not to be overlooked in this year's graduating class: Taiwan-born Bei Kuo and her collection, Tomorrow is the End of the World (the first in a series of Parsons MFA grads we are featuring in the upcoming weeks). Along with her classmates, Kuo is currently exhibiting her collection in the Gucci building on Fifth Avenue in New York and will show during NYFW in September. Style.com described the 26-year old designer x performance artist as "easily the most out-there of the bunch", reflecting on the designer and her series of silver metallic, white embossed neoprene to the slick black sportswear looks, many of which include the text “You do not exist.” We caught up with Kuo, who spoke about her brand, what she has learned about the business of fashion, the website she is obsessed with right now and more …
The Fashion Law - How old are you and where are you from?
Bei Kuo - I'm from Taiwan and I'm 26.
The Fashion Law - Tell me a bit about your background in fashion.
Bei Kuo - I can't actually say I have a very impressive background in fashion. I think I did something pretty nice back in Taiwan, but I know people are always expecting some big names when I mention my past experiences. But no, I don't have all those big names with me, my entire background in fashion is all based in Taiwan. I started my BA in Shih Chien University in Taipei. After that, I worked as a design assistant for Taiwan based label Sdod, styling for some artists, and also did some freelance jobs.
I always knew that I wouldn't stay in Taiwan for long. While I was getting my BA, I went to London and did a workshop at Central Saint Martins during the summer, and for me, it was such a cultural shock. I found the culture, people, bars, parties … everything in London to be so inspiring. I really believe there is so much education outside of any school. London itself can teach you so much without paying any tuition. This is something that I was really missing in Taiwan. So, I always knew that I would go somewhere else and I ended up in New York, studying at Parsons for my Master's degree. During the summer, I did some freelance styling and internships at Asher Levine and Bond Hardware.
The Fashion Law - How would you describe the Tomorrow is the End of the World man or woman?
Bei Kuo - It's an unknown quantity. Not a boy, not a girl, not transgender, not unisex. It can be anything in your imagination.
The Fashion Law - How are you different from other young designers?
Bei Kuo - Well, to begin with, I don't really call myself a fashion designer. I just love creating art works in different medias. It can be anything and then I transform it into garment. However, people always tell me they find statements behind my works. My concepts are always based on something really personal and emotional, even though sometimes it just comes out of nowhere. I think that's the part that makes me really different from others.
The Fashion Law - A lot of the garments in your current collection have the phrase "You do not exist" on them. Why did you choose to use that?
Bei Kuo - "You do not exist" is the main concept of my collection. It came from something I did in the past, as I mentioned, most of my works involved both personal and emotional things, and it is not always about something pretty. For most people (or maybe just for some people), there must be some part of your past/memory that you would never ever want to talk about. Every time you think about it, you want that period of your life disappear. And every time it hunts you down, you want to disappear from the world for a while. It seem to be I'm pointed at people and yelled at them but it's more like I am talking to myself, " Hey you! Me from the past, you do not exist!".
The Fashion Law - What have you learned so far about the business of fashion?
Bei Kuo - In addition to talent, money and connections are the two most important things.
The Fashion Law - What is the most important thing you learned at Parsons?
Bei Kuo - I really got to experience what it feels like to be an emerging designer. The MFA program build up a designer studio for us with machinists and pattern makers, which we all have to share, and you can find yourself interns to help you but most of the time you are doing things by yourself. You really can learn a lot from working with other people, communicating with the machinists and pattern makers can be a such challenge, resourcing fabrics and materials can also be so hard especially when you are new to the place and don't really speak proper English.
It makes me realize that once you have your own label it's not just about finishing a collection, it's about managing your time and money, how you get the machinists to understand what you want to achieve, how to convince people to believe in you so that they will sponsor you. I'll say the MFA program offered us all of those things and it's really depends on how you take it and how much you teach yourself from all the experiences and mistakes that you made. And actually I learned most from all my classmates.
The Fashion Law - What fashion designers do you admire?
Bei Kuo - I have always loved the works of Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Rick Owens. But right now I'm looking into Jeremy Scott and Shayne Oliver.
The Fashion Law - What are you obsessed with right now?
Bei Kuo - I'm now really obsessed with this website Eye Bodega.