Designer: Sisi Liu
Lower East Side, New York, NY
Photography: Sesse Lind
Realization: Deborah Ferguson
Interview by Deborah Ferguson
Where are you from?
I am from China. I completed my bachelor degree in women’s wear design at Tsinghua University, then I went to School of the Art Institute of Chicago to pursue my masters degree. But I gave up the degree at SAIC after one year and transfer to Parsons for the MFA fashion design and society program.
Personally I prefer New York with its freedom, carefree and openness.
What inspired you to choose to do your MA design degree at Parsons New School instead of RCA, Central St. Martins or Bercot?
All of them are world renowned and prestigious fashion schools. Many of my best friends have gone to England. They are fascinated by the British culture and are there to be cultivated by the avant-garde design. Personally I prefer New York with its freedom, carefree and openness. There exists plenty opportunities. Many American designer became successful and reputable in the international market, some have been appointed as creative directors of European fashion houses such as Alexander Wang for Balenciaga and Tom Ford for Gucci. I saw the recognition of American design and wanted to be a part of this exciting industry.
Another reason I chose Parsons was because when I visited my best friend who was studying the MFA program at parsons in New York, I was invited to attend the making of her video for one of her electives at school. I was deeply attracted to this working environment from the arrangement of various types of classes, the energetic MFA students, and their serious work ethic. I was motivated to be a member of this program and joined Parsons with high expectation.
Was fashion design your goal when you started college or did you have other goals?
When I first started college, I chose fashion design, though I wasn’t familiar with it. I only knew my passion is for drawing, and all things creative. The reason for choosing fashion design as my major is that it is practical, and girls who study this major can dress themselves nicely. After I came in touch with fashion design, it was totally different from what I imagined. It was not easy, sometimes really tough. A good starting point will require in-depth research, development, and more research and development. It is not a sudden intuition or a coincidence, it is a consolidation of knowledge, ideas, taste, and techniques from everyday life. To have only techniques and skills are far from enough to be a good fashion designer. One has to enrich his/her well-rounded knowledge and ability.
Can you describe the process of inspiration for your graduate collection?
My collection comes from my daily experience of making “DIY” (Do it yourself) packages. In this collection, I focus on handcraft techniques, which I learned from the“DIY” packages, such as ribbon embroidery, yarn embroidery, felting, making 3D fake flower with fabric, etc. I researched all these skills, then I enlarged these DIY outcomes, in order to show these traditional skills in an innovative way. When I enlarged the embroidery, I made it 9 times larger than their original size; that is also the reason why I named my collection XXXXXXXXXL (9 times extra large). In the whole developing process what I enlarged is not only the outcomes of my design, but also my mind and possibilities.
It is not a sudden intuition or a coincidence, it is a consolidation of knowledge, ideas, taste, and techniques from everyday life. To have only techniques and skills are far from enough to be a good fashion designer.
Would you rather design your own brand after you graduate or would you like to work for a notable RTW brand?
I would love to work for someone at first. Because I think there is still too much to learn especially to learn about the industry. I am going to start my own business later, after gaining enough work experience.
What brands do you feel your design vision would be ideal for?
Dior, Kenzo, Moschino, and Christopher Kane are the brands I admire and hope to have the chance to work for them. What these brands appeal to me in common are their innovativeness and their use of colors. Since I was little, I have developed a sensitivity for color. After I got in touch with drawing, I found myself having the ability to discover many unusual colors. I love to play with uncommon combination of colors in my design.
Since I was little, I have developed a sensitivity for color. After I got in touch with drawing, I found myself having the ability to discover many unusual colors.
Would you consider designing your brand in CHINA instead of North America or in Europe? And what benefits would your decision have for your long term future as a designer?
Yes, I would love to launch my business in China with various reasons. The Chinese market has begun to appreciate independent and avant-garde designs. There is more openness and freedom in the market to offer support and opportunities for young designers. The fashion industry in China is an enormous market. With an increasing number of people became aware of fashion design, pursing their own identity in fashion, and have the purchasing power, China is a better option for me. With my background from China, it will be easier for me to gain resources and information. Overall, it will be a lot easier for me to launch my career in China with better chance to succeed.
Do you have any advice for students who would like to pursue a degree in Fashion design?
I would say it was worth every penny to study the MFA program. I was able to meet amazing people from a diverse cultural background and learn from them, either professional knowledge or life experiences. Everyone has their own strength. There were a lot of opportunities for us to exchange ideas and improve our knowledge. We also had the chance to discuss everyone’s own culture and experience, it really helped to open up my mind. Before I came to this program, I was not sure if I was in love with this major and was passionate enough to study and work hard for it. Now I think that this was such a rare opportunity, everyone should cherish the time we spent in this program. It would be a waste if I spent it in confusion.