Jiaqi Wang’s game channels the eccentricity of New York street style

Moving from Suzhou to Shanghai, then London and now New York, We Dress A Certain Way is an exploration of the animator’s love for people watching.

13 March 2024

Despite Fran Lebowitz’s complaints about New York fashion being dimmed among a sea of yoga mat-carrying pedestrians, and Chloë Sevigny pontificating that “everybody is in Lululemon and has a fucking dog”, there’s no denying that across eight million people, the city has a wide and eclectic offering. This is what’s at the heart of Jiaqi Wang’s latest project, We Dress A Certain Way, which channels the crowds she sees throughout her day-to-day life.

Jiaqi grew up in Suzhou, a city an hour away from Shanghai. While in school, she got into art and pretty much spent her entire teens drawing, but she still felt as though she wasn’t particularly creative. As such, when the opportunity presented itself for her to study at university, she chose art, and became immersed in graphics, before packing her bags for London to study animation. “And after I finished, I moved to the US for a job and found illustration to be a powerful way to tell stories,” she shares.

Oftentimes, growing up in a busy city comes with a certain nonchalance toward crowds. It becomes your normal, you’re unfazed by barging, don’t even bother with queues, and you can forget any hellos as you pass your fellow human. But, for Jiaqi, her move to Shanghai came with a fair amount of time spent people-watching. “While waiting for the metro overground, and a lot of the time in shopping malls,” she tells us. “And then I became very interested in style on the street. It goes back to when I was younger admiring my mother’s clothes, and she began telling me what’s what whenever we’d go out.”


Jiaqi Wang: We Dress A Certain Way (Copyright © Jiaqi Wang, 2024)

Keen to portray the self expression of people going about their daily lives, Jiaqi began making a daily practice of admiring people’s clothes, and it wasn’t long before “my animator brain kicked in,” she tells us. After animating around ten characters, Jaiqi soon realised that if she put 12 together and tweaked their poses slightly, it would become a walking cycle. After coming to a “hard stop” with the project, she realised that with the composition, it was starting to feel more like a game than a film. “I figured that way it meant that the layout could be simple, and everyone would enjoy it,” she adds.

During the making of We Dress A Certain Way, Jiaqi found it difficult to create different characters. “Most of the outfits were inspired by how people dressed on the street, it required observation and a lot of staring,” she shares. Being introverted, the animator often became nervous and put off by the thought of accidentally making eye contact. And secondly, she came up against some blocks regarding how to make it modular. “I like the idea of modular furniture, similar to adjusting furniture components. I envisioned the flexibility of adding or resizing elements as desired.” Being that she didn’t have coding experience, she had to look for somebody who could and held the same vision. So, Jiaqi teamed up with game designer Chenyuan and producer Hongyi from Slow Movement to create a desktop game, which you can download for Mac or Windows here.

All in all, We Dress A Certain Way isn’t just a lens on a city, but an interactive and playful way to look at a population, as an observer. We say it’s uncommon nowadays: people either have their heads in a book or phone, or maybe feel too awkward to look around themselves. Although Jiaqi met her challenges, she is proud of sustaining this throughout the length of the project, and wants to inspire others to embark on interactive projects. “Sometimes it can be hard for us to connect to an audience with our art, but my making it interactive is like a warm invitation welcoming them into your world.”

GalleryJiaqi Wang: We Dress A Certain Way (Copyright © Jiaqi Wang, 2024)

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Jiaqi Wang: We Dress A Certain Way (Copyright © Jiaqi Wang, 2024)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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