Steph Lau creates five animations and a red envelope design for Maison Margiela’s Lunar New Year’s celebrations

As Lunar New Year celebrations dissipate for another year, we bask in the New York-based designer’s mesmerising creations for renowned fashion house, Maison Margiela.

When we first covered the New York-based designer Steph Laura last year, we had a feeling that there would be great things in store for this multi-disciplinary creative, who dabbles in everything from hand-painting clothes to 3D art working. Grabbing our attention with her zine Hot Air, Steph’s publication explored the humour of her mother tongue, Cantonese. Its title came from an old concept in Chinese medicine, with “hot air” being a rough translation for an imbalance of energy in the body. Playing with these linguistic phrasings through the original design of the zine, Hot Air impressed viewers in both its aesthetic and conceptual prowess. And less than a year later, the designer has just completed a series of artworks for Maison Margiela’s lunar new year campaign.

“I have to say, I got incredibly lucky,” Steph says modestly of this achievement. Commissioned by the renowned fashion house to create five animated wishes and five red envelope designs for this year’s lunar new year campaign, Steph connected with Maison Margiela through Thursday’s Child, a UK-based creative platform connecting global brands with talented artists. There, Steph’s work was presented to the client, and after taking a liking to Hot Air in particular, they asked Steph to approach this project in a similar way.

The brief was simple. “As long as Chinese characters (Kanji) were incorporated in one way or another,” explains Steph, her creative vision was open. “Ultimately, they wanted to see an artist interpret the brief in an unexpected way.” She designed a floral pattern for the red envelope deriving from the the character for joy, then went onto the trickier task at hand, creating five unique animations around the themes of hope. “After my research,” Steph tells us, “nature ended up being the most appropriate and universal symbol of hope. The regenerative power of this earth is so beautiful and endlessly inspiring to me.”

Once she nailed the theme and gathered her visual references, the rest of the creative process came together smoothly. Naturally, the animations became informed by the elements; wind and sunlight gently refracting within each animated short. “I wanted to recreate the subtle blowing of the wind, the eery serenity in watching a butterfly travel to the end of the world and the effect of the sun rising in from of a delicate glass sculpture,” says Steph of her mesmerising creations.

Convincingly translating such fresh sensations into the digital was one thing, but then making the images move was another. “I’m not an animator, so I did have to figure out how to go from ‘making an interesting image’ to making an image interesting for 5-12 seconds,” she says on the matter. Immersing herself in the new medium, Steph mastered the art quickly, and you could never think the beautifully rendered final works are nothing short of incredible.

Working on the project, the process transported Steph back to her childhood and the jubilant celebrations that would take place on the lunar new year. “It definitely made me wish I could spend it with my family again,” she recalls, reminiscing back to the days when she would take the time to dress up and reunite with extended members of her family for the new year festivities. She hopes that viewers “really take in the wishes” of her thoughtful design, in turn wishing “everyone safety, peace, progress and joy.” Steph finally goes on to say: “I love receiving cash on the lunar new year as much as the next person, but really, there’s a lot of emphasis on prosperity and money in Chinese New Year and I want to remind viewers of other important things in life.”

GallerySteph Lau: Maison Margiela

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Steph Lau: Maison Margiela

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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