In light of her 2015 H&M Design Award semifinalist nomination, her recent stocking at Dover Street Market, and her selection to be in VFILES's Fall/Winter 2015 show next month during New York Fashion Week, here is a Retro Read dedicated to one of New York hottest young designers, Andrea Jaipei Li …
Not to be overlooked in this year’s Parsons Masters of Fine Arts Fashion Design and Society program graduating class: Beijing-born Andrea Jiapei Li and her collection, I AM WHAT [I AM] (the second in a series of Parsons MFA grads we are featuring in the upcoming weeks). Along with her classmates, Li just finished up showing her collection in the Gucci building on Fifth Avenue in New York and will show during NYFW in September. Style.com reviewed the 24-year old designer's "sculpted graduate collection", speaking highly of "her oversize neoprene and mesh wares, each of which fused impeccable construction with forward-thinking, flirty flare and sporty wearability." We caught up with Li, who focusing on Womenswear (printing and weaving textile design), and spoke to her about her brand, what she has learned about the business of fashion, what she is obsessed with right now and more …
The Fashion Law - How old are you and where are you from?
Andrea Jiapei Li - I am 24 years old and I’m from Beijing, China.
The Fashion Law - Tell me a bit about your background in fashion.
Andrea Jiapei Li - I am graduating this year from the MFA of Fashion Design and Society program at Parsons, focusing on womenswear. During the two year program, I have had internships at 3.1 Phillip Lim, Diane von Furstenburg and Edun. Prior to that, I obtained my undergraduate degree in Fashion Design and Technology in China. While in school, I founded a womenswear label called Nothing Clothing in 2010, which was carried by boutiques such as B.N.C., KADAKADA, etc.
The Fashion Law - You named your collection, I AM WHAT [I AM] …
Andrea Jiapei Li - Yes. The inspiration of this collection came from a thesis class project. The task was to define ourselves using different approaches, which prompted me to ask myself “Who am I?” and “What kind of fashion do I want to design?” I was hoping to find something different about myself, which is why in the title “I AM WHAT [I AM]” I added the brackets – to me “[I AM]” is more like a symbol, it may not be the real self, but it would help me better understand myself.
Throughout the design process for my collection, I insisted on using completely opposite approaches than what I’d usually use. For example, I collected a lot of fashion-related images and videos that I did NOT like. From these I made some keywords and put them on a Rubik's cube to create random combinations of these keywords. I was basically trying to use things that I did not like to create something that I would actually like. Although this process was hard to control and could create unexpected outcomes, I enjoyed it and thought it was interesting, as the process of finding oneself is similarly difficult to control and unpredictable.
It is not easy to answer the question “Who am I?”, but designing this MFA collection helped me better define my design identity and further explore myself as an individual.
The Fashion Law - What is the most important thing you learned at Parsons?
Andrea Jiapei Li - My experience at Parsons allowed me better explore my design identity and more effectively communicate, through my designs, to the audience.
The Fashion Law - What fashion designers do you most admire?
Andrea Jiapei Li - J.W. Anderson. For me his work embodies a series of dualities – it is soft yet powerful, elegant yet dynamic. I also love Phoebe Philo for her forward-thinking and modern design.
The Fashion Law - What are you obsessed with right now?
Andrea Jiapei Li - I’ve been obsessed with James Turell’s work since taking the Lighting Design class at Parsons. His work is hypnotic and mesmerizing, and has inspired me to explore the relationship between fashion design and lighting design.
*This article was initially published in May 2014.