Sunday, 10 March 2013


You might not hear anything about Renli Su, Olivia, if you only checked the LCF first London Fashion Week show in February. Discovering her in the in-house show in January, I believe her collection is the most impressive one from the whole MA course this year. I was first amazed by her styling and the collocation of the range but I love the texture of the fabrics more when the models stood still during the show. The masks, the finishing, the hand-crafted fabrics and the treat she did on different garments made her graduation standing out. Then I asked her for a studio visit after the show to look at each garment in detail and I discovered new elements that made me love the collection more. I would say checking Olivia's collection is live a little journey - from the loose-fitted silhouette to the hand-knitted masks, from the textured fabrics to hand-sewed seams, from the untrimmed edges to her own technique for creating patterns on woven fabrics. The deeper I know about the collection the more I love it. I don't really know how should I explain the technique Olivia used to create her own fabrics. Sticking part of yarn out and cutting it off, this was how a trapezoid pattern created on the huge cape. The same skill has been used to make part of a vest in see-through effect. It sounds like Kinder Surprise egg but I am sure you could find more than 3 wishes with Olivia's collection.

Tell us about your background, why fashion design and why LCF for the MA course? 
I grew up in a small town near the seaside of Fujian, China. I started to learn drawing from junior high school and did my BA in the Central Academic of Fine Arts in Beijing. I decided to choose fashion design as my major when I was studying in CAFA in the first year. When I was doing my BA, fashion and clothes making are fascinating to me, because we see fashion design as a way to express our artistic concepts. That’s actually quite different from other colleges in China. During the BA course, I gained my interests about London and the fashion here. So I decided to come.

How do you describe your fashion aesthetic? 
Actually my fashion aesthetic changes through my life experience, but what I really want to see is clothes is pure, neutral and they can explain a period of time and experience.

Can you tell me more about your collection? Is there any difficulty during the design process?
The main discussion in this project is “ The inability of humans to stay still.” I wanted to express a concept about returning to one’s original nature, looking at nomads, their life and the nature power of making clothes from a new angle, with an idea about time and memory. The nomadic life style, especially in Central Asia, is one focus in my research. Nomads’ everyday dress, accessories and daily essentials, the places they live and their hand-weaving technique also work as design references in this project.

“Time & Memory” went through the collection construction. This idea is shown mainly through the manufacturing methodology in the project. Edges of the fabrics were loosed naturally during the manufacturing process. The seaming methodology is complex. I needed to use hand stitching in the whole collection in order to present the natural power of making clothes. Traces of machines are not seen in the project. Fringes were created in some parts of the seams on the garments. Yarn-dyed woven fabrics are important materials in the project and an organic colour scheme is used to emphasize the concept.
The difficulties that I got are looking for the appropriate fabrics for doing fabric reconstructions, texting over and over again for getting the better results and because they are all hand made, I have to over come the heavy workload.

There are many emerging designers in the industry. Is there anyone that you really want to collaborate with?
I would love to collaborate with shoes makers and textile designers. To work with experts in their field like Paul Harnden must be great. I can always learn a lot when I’m collaborating with other designers.

As a LCF graduate, do you have any advice for other fashion students? 
We won't know what we actually want to do at the very beginning so just give ourselves more time for exploration and development. And stick on it once you find the point that you are very into.

Tell me something about how you spend your leisure time. Could you recommend a place that we could never miss when visit London? 
I really like visiting book store and buying paper products, so Old Street is one of my favourite. I also like visiting the fabric shops in Berwick Street for touching and feeling the different textures. But once I got a chance to visit an exhibition in Wapping and got impressed by the peace and old warehouse there. I just find them special.

What’s next!? 
I will keep exploring what I am interested in detail and experiment with more patterns and materials to gain more experience. Hopefully I will create more interesting work.


To know more about Olivia, please visit her showtime page or her own website 

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