Pay2Play gets tactile in a sleek, hand-tied brand identity for clothing label Déficeler

The minimalist branding aims to reinvigorate genuine interest in historic patterns, textiles and clothing, as opposed to using them as “commercial selling points”.

26 January 2023


Around this time last year we first met the Beijing-based Pay2Play, a studio we love for its innovative use of material and form. Now, in true Pay2Play fashion, its most recent project sees a similarly tactile, multi-layered approach. Integrating sewing and physical photographs, the studio has collaborated with a new clothing brand Déficeler, on its first SS23 season: The Migration.

The main thread running through the brand identity, is (quite literally) thread. Of dual French and Chinese influence, the brand has strong ties to Chinese Miao culture; a minority in China, located in its Southwestern region. Its name, Déficeler, means “to untie the string” in French, which directly refers to tie-dying, a “traditional Chinese handicraft”, Sun Xiaoxi – Pay2Play’s design director – explains.

The first element of the identity Sun worked on was the logo. Continuing the themes woven throughout the project, the font has a thin, handwritten look that emulates the look of sewn in thread. Moreover, various elements of the design actually include thread. The “traditional Miao image” is sewn directly onto the bag by hand, which hangs down naturally. In the lookbook, Sun visualised the concept untying and tying by using black thread as the binding. From the lookbook, the thread is intentionally kept long, so it can wrap around the book. This, however, wasn’t an intentional addition. Initially Sun had intended for the thread to be cut but, when it came back from the printers, Sun was taken aback by the effect of the uncut, long, wrappable thread. Keeping it in the design, Sun now views it as “an accidental beauty”.


Pay2Play: Déficeler (Copyright @ Déficeler, 2022)

Other aspects of Miao culture inspire the design, specifically the accessories and patterns found in clothing. Sun explains that silver jewellery features heavily in Miao communities, both for aesthetic value and as amulets to “ward off evil, and as symbols of wealth”. Often featuring symmetrical shapes, like squares and triangles, Sun incorporated the shapes into the identity. The clothing tags come in four designs, each with a different graphic shape that can be popped out of the label, not only in keeping with the identity as a whole, but adding a physical element for the consumer to interact with.

Sun continues to explain that clothes bear a “strong cultural message” for the Miao people, with patterns influenced by “ancient totems and historical legend” which are very symmetrical in composition. Although Sun was inspired by the “variety and richness” of Miao patterns, he chose to express them “through contemporary graphic design language” so as not to “completely ‘copy’ the traditional patterns”, as seen in the geometric logo and four tags.

Through both the clothing line and design identity, Sun hopes that younger generations will begin to take an interest in the historic origins of patterns, textiles and clothing. What’s more, Sun identifies that while clothing and styles from ethnic minorities as “commercial selling points”, he instead hopes the Déficeler project will push brands to integrate cultural elements into designs with more consideration and sensibility. “Emphasising the role of handicrafts allows the public to cherish traditional culture, sustainable development, and at the same time to rethink mass produced clothing,” Sun ends.

GalleryPay2Play: Déficeler (Copyright @ Déficeler, 2022)

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Pay2Play: Déficeler (Copyright @ Déficeler, 2022)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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