How did you feel when you found out you won the competition?
I felt extremely thrilled, and very grateful for this opportunity to share my collection, my inspirations, and my ideas with the world. Given the caliber of the second, third, and fourth winners, I could certainly understand how hard it was for the judges to cast their votes.
What was your motivation in entering the competition?
I am humbled by all the fabulous fashion designers who came before me in earning this opportunity to present my work. Through this competition, I hope to learn from others and network with colleagues and potential buyers in the industry. Even more importantly, I would love to promote the idea of wearable arts, with an emphasis on wearability and appealing designs.
What inspires you when you design clothing?
Everything in life could inspire me! Living in one of the most diverse city in the world means I am able to experience different arts and cultures with relative ease. I am a frequent visitor to the various museums around San Francisco. From the Museum of Modern Art to African Diaspora Museum, or even the California Academy of Sciences or the Cartoon Art Museum, I am open-minded about what I experience and where I reach out for inspiration. When I am in a museum and witnessing the extraordinary arts being displayed on the wall or at the center of the rotunda, the combination of space, time, color, atmosphere, light, emotion, and even other visitors around the piece would all melt together, and that’s when I get my inspiration.
How would you describe your style?
In terms of style, generally speaking, I prefer minimalism. I flip-flop between symmetry and asymmetry; and I love abstract silhouette with subtle details. I am also a big fan of aptly used abstract prints.
How did you get into fashion design?
Someone once told me “If you love your profession, you don’t have to work a single day.” My story is quite simple. Like most of women, I entertained to dress my Barbie dolls when I was young. Naturally, I became a shopaholic when I could financially support myself, albeit with selective prudence. I was an accountant and an executive in the energy business before I realized why fashion magazines with parti-colored pictures could better speak to me than financial statements and quarterly earnings reports. It is because I love to create something beautiful from scratch. I soon realized that I was esurient for a profession that I do not consider a job. So after careful deliberation, I started my graduate training at the Academy of Arts University (AAU) in San Francisco and later started my own company.
Having switched from an already successful career into a totally new field was not an easy choice. With an undergraduate background in accounting, I had to start from the basics. However, I accepted the risks with starting a new career to pursuit my happiness. I believed, with enough passion and the right training, I could become an outstanding designer. I hope winning this competition is yet another testament to that belief. While at AAU, I soon realized that fashion design is not just a simple “Barbie dress-up”; but the culmination of ideas, inspirations, know-how, experiences, plus tears and sweats. Every piece has its origin, its inspiration, and its journey from the void to style and form. It was eye-opening to experience lots of art works and architectures, to be inspired by them, and to infuse these elements into my own design philosophy. So I am much obliged to these artists from different fields and from different times. Through their collective works, I have obtained a fresh perspective of the world. I have learned the way of creative design. And I hope to continue to create beautiful pieces for all women.
How long have you been designing clothes?
Formally, I started to design clothes around the end of 2008. Informally, I started to design little dresses for Barbie dolls when I was five.
Why do you think you won the competition?
I think my designing principle of wearable art really spoke to the judges. As I alluded to earlier, I think fashion does not have to be outrageously fancy to be ageless, nor does it need to be a scary goth in order to win the hearts of the people.
Who is your favorite designer?
There are so many talented designers how could I have one favorite designer? If I have to choose, two designers are tied as my current favorites: Alexander Wang and Mary Katrantzou. While Alexander’s design styles are not quite similar to mine, he is nevertheless a young designer I adore. His collections are always so fresh and he always seems to have newer details in every collection. It speaks to his ability to continue to innovate despite already being highly regarded by his peers and the general public. Mary’s brilliant colors and high-quality digital prints are approaching collectibles. But what continues to mesmerize me is how she blends digital prints with design details to produce an eye-popping 3-dimesional wearable illusion. She is definitely at the forefront of innovative design.
Do you have any projects for the future?
I am currently working on my Fall/Winter collection and also, being a mom of a 2-year old, I saw many shortcomings of toddler clothing in today’s market. I plan to launch a children’s wear line soon.
What advice would you give other designers who want to enter the competition?
For future designers who wish to enter into the competition, I would say that winning or not, this is a rewarding experience. It is difficult to be objective and self-critical, but try your best. I would further challenge future designers entering in the competition the following questions: a) is my collection wearable? b) are my design elements appealing and refreshing? c) are the techniques used in my collection innovative? d) and finally, would your friends and family want to wear your pieces?
You can see more of Jessie Liu here.
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