As Julie Gilhart, the fashion retail consultant, who formerly headed up the buying team at Barneys New York, oh-so-appropriately tweeted this week: "In between the Alexander Wang and Altuzarra shows was the future." She was referring to the Parsons New School of Design Masters of Fine Arts Fashion Design and Society program graduate show, which was positioned between two of the most highly anticipated shows of New York Fashion Week. Along with ten other MFA grads, Bei Kuo showed her collection, Tomorrow is the End of the World. The Taiwan-born, New York-based designer, who describes the Tomorrow client as "not a boy, not a girl, not transgender, not unisex. It can be anything in your imagination", showed a collection of nine looks. The garments themselves were constructed from silver metallic and white embossed Neoprene, fine knit blends, another, a jumpsuit, of slick black knit paired with a leather blend. Some include the text “You do not exist.” And still others are adorned with Chinese lettering, which to the native Chinese speaker appears to be translated in a grammatically incorrect manner (as you may notice in the comments section of nearly every post dedicated to Kuo's collection), but wait … there is more to it than that.
Implicit in the 26-year old designer x performance artist's collection is not only skilled handiwork (for instance: a meticulous process that included layering and bonding to create the appearance of Chinese characters on the Neoprene pieces), but a deeply intimate touch or two, as well. In speaking with Kuo of her NYFW debut collection, she told me that it is the collection was an immensely personal exercise for her: "‘You Do Not Exist’ was originally a performance piece, and the collection, which is based on a childhood memory that I wish I had the ability to erase myself from, has evolved from that." She continued on: "I wish I could have accomplished a kind of invisibility [in connection with that memory]. Based on this idea, I wanted to create my own religion of invisibility using a book of rules to adhere by. So, I experimented with language, using Google Translate to intentionally produce mistranslated output from English to Chinese translations. In addition to being able to develop and produce my own fabrics and prints, I manipulated both shape and language, particularly with the use of the Chinese characters."
So, before you write off the collection, namely, its text (such as, "I am falling in love with you but you do not exist" or "Love without heart"), as a grammatically incorrect attempt, think again. For more on Kuo, check out her site Tomorrow is the End of the World.