10 Minutes With… YanYan Tao, Emerging Fashion Designer

Following the incredible showcase at the Westminster Graduate Fashion Show this month, we went behind the scenes once again to speak to some of Dazed’s “ones to watch”.

Introducing the talented YanYan Tao…

Tell us what inspired this collection.

I have a huge passion for Hong Kong films; particularly gangster or thriller genres. There’s always such vibrant colours, which I wanted to bring into the collection. The neon, bright lights of the city scape at night against the deep purple, blue hues of the night – that’s what I wanted to bring to life and inspired my colour palette and prints. Two movies that I really used a lot within my portfolio were Young and Dangerous and Kill Bill.

In terms of the silhouette, I’d been looking closely at the uniforms of 1950’s factory workers. I wanted to explore this concept of ‘uniform’ not just in terms of the shape, but also metaphorically taking it and reworking our understanding of what it is and how to make something creative from it. Rather than berets however, I opted for a sailor hat. I was watching Miss Potter with a friend just one evening and I saw the children wearing them; I thought that’s the finishing touch!

I had lots of fun embellishing them.

Do you think London is the best city in the world for Fashion?

Yes I do. Fashion is a culture here. It’s unlike any city I’ve experienced in the UK and beyond. In London there’s a real sense of style, everyone has their own unique expression and interpretation of the garments they’re wearing, it doesn’t feel as industry-led as other places in the world. It’s great to see and to be around; it’s inspiring.

Which designers/artists do you think are at the forefront of Fashion and Design right now?

That’s a hard question. There’s so many incredible designers out there, but for me two really stand out and they have been in the business for a while. Jun Takahashi of Undercover is a genius. He takes lots of classic looks and has fun with it, and he’s heavily inspired by music and art which are two of my biggest influences so I really feel a natural synergy with him. His collections with brands from Nike to Uniqlo have really stood the test of time and they’re accessible but statement pieces, which I admire.

Are your designs intended as pieces of art, or do you believe fashion should be functional?

For me there’s no difference between the two. Fashion is art. I do believe that fashion should be functional though, I think pockets are important. My collection this year was quite subdued compared to some of the others on the catwalk, more functional than loud I guess, but I think it actually made my designs stand out.

If you could delve into any designers’ studio, dead or alive, who would it be?

Jun Takahashi, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, Thom Browne or Palace – I’d raid them all!

If you could dress anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?

There’s no special ‘one’ that I would like to dress. My collections are made to be enjoyed by everyone; I want them to be accessible and make people feel good. I make a lot of hats and when my friends ask me if they can get one, I’ll always oblige. It makes me happy that people are getting something they love, and so really my answer is that I’d really just like to dress ‘anyone’. Preferably alive!

Why did you opt for Menswear?

Just for some divergence from womenswear. There’s so much in the fashion world for women, and hardly anything for the sartorial gents out there. But I do still love creating womenswear and would definitely do a unisex collection in the future.

Which fashion trend would you love / hate to see return of?

Anything from the 90’s – this is my era! I feel like film, music, culture were all at a peak in the 90s and they were so influential to the fashion scene.

What’s the hardest part of designing a new collection?

It’s getting started. The research, choosing your topics and navigating which to take forward, but most importantly money. Funding to make these projects happen is so hard to come by and production is a complicated, expensive business.

What does ‘success’ mean for you?

It gives me a little thrill to think of people buying and wearing garments that I’ve crafted, without knowing anything about me – just because they love my designs. I want to be in Tokyo, New York, London and see people in the cities wearing my clothes. That’s success for me.

Finally, how does it feel to be named as one of Dazed Magazine’s “ones to watch”?

Hugely exciting – I’ve been telling all my friends and loves ones! I just hope that I can continue on this path and do well, it is a great privilege to be included.


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