If you’re walking down the street in London – or perhaps getting the tube or buying some clothes in the shopping centre – then you’d better keep an eye out. Fashion designer Feyfey Yufei Liu will most likely be watching you as you walk past, taking note the clothes you wear and the specific way you hang them off your back. “I like being on the street,” Feyfey tells It’s Nice That, “to observe everyday people passing by. I take a good look at what they wear and their special habits about how to wear the clothes. People in their true and relaxed state always give me inspiration.”
This outlook has been infused into the designer’s recent graduate collection, that being a series of inflatable garments designed to “take up space”, she notes. Having grown up in China, Feyfey moved to study in the USA, pursuing her education at Rhode Island School of Design. Having then finished her BA course, she worked at fashion brand Chromosome Residence before working as a ready-to-wear (RTW) designer for an NYC streetwear brand named Danielle Guizio. After which she came back to her studies and went on to complete an MA at Royal College of Art in London, “aiming to experience something new in a different environment.”
It was here that she started developing her own voice in fashion design, steering her works on the basis of creating garments that are commercial just as much as they are functional and wearable pieces of art. This is achieved through a conscious and playful mix of performance, storytelling, cultural critique and value generation. “But at the same time I don’t want my work to be untouchable in the art gallery, as I insist my work may look unusual yet always functional and easy to wear.” In doing so, Feyfey merges the symbology of the body and daily life experiences, working with “stereotyped fabrics to make seemingly unfashionable styles but aiming to offer something fresh and new.” And it’s this double entendre that’s given way to an immensely joyful collection of clothes, where bubbly suits, jackets and dresses (and soon to be hoodies) are enlarged in various scenarios, captured in mundane environments by photographer Hanna Moon.
The pieces themselves are influenced by Feyfey’s view of the world, where she knowingly shines a light onto her own understanding of everyday clothing for women and, more specifically, how this can be pulled into different contexts. This is done by letting the pieces “inflate and take up the space,” she says. “The idea is also that women not only laugh at jokes but also make the jokes, being rude to those who are used to making them small.” In this sense, she thrashes all societal expectations of “beautiful, elegant sexy womenswear” and offers up an alternative; one that’s decisively her own and protrudes with simplicity, power and an affixation of equal rights for women.
This is precisely why the women in these photos have a certain prowess, one that’s confident and in some ways careless of others around them. We can all relate to the experience of unknowingly bashing someone on the tube with your extra large rucksack that you forgot to take off, so when Feyfey’s models are placed into these scenes, there is a slight sense of anxiety that comes with the positioning of these garments. But that’s exactly the point; these women are taking up space on their own accord, helped by these incredible inflatable structures created in Clo3D software. “In a digital environment, I see and revise the 3D garment in real-time by creating and iterating 3D patterns and sewing in digital spaces,” she adds. “By checking the fit and materials on a digital 3D model, I can do a more accurate design and directly print the pattern for final production.”
“The digital process saves time, resources and textile waste,” continues Feyfey. “It also allows me to do more sculptural and larger-scale pieces, and to see how they look in minutes. I believe this is a very effective and sustainable way of woking for the future of the fashion industry.”
Feyfey’s favourite piece from the collection is in fact the final look – a giant head featuring arms and legs in the hand-drawn style of Hello Kitty, that appears to be “coming out of the plain oversized coast, taking up the space in a pose of the kitty trying to kick the dice.” The garment is shot during a tube ride, and conveys symbols of femininity and being united as women. This is only aided by the fact that Hello Kitty itself is pretty much prevalent in every childhood around the world, taking form as key chains, lunch boxes and pencil bags. “In Asian countries, however, it’s also a consumeristic marketing ploy from a huge corporation and her setting is a white girl who is from London,” says Feyfey. “I had mixed feelings about Hello Kitty, but then I think that’s why it should be the right symbol. I use the symbol in the final look as a meaning to redeem space for 100 per cent femininity.”
So could you imagine yourself in one of these garments? Feyfey hopes so, and they’re actually much more wearable than first thought. “I think whoever shares the same mindset will want to wear my pieces. I envision people wearing them in deflated mode for everyday errands, and if any moments feel right to them, they can just inflate the pieces and take up space.”
GalleryFeyfey Yufei Liu: RCA graduate collection. Photography by Hanna Moon, make up by Nami Yoshida, hair by Kiyoko Odo, casting by Good Catch (Copyright © Feyfey Yufei Liu, 2021)
Feyfey Yufei Liu: RCA graduate collection. Photography by Hanna Moon, make up by Nami Yoshida, hair by Kiyoko Odo, casting by Good Catch (Copyright © Feyfey Yufei Liu, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.