Coming from a family of artist, fashion designer Claudia Li finds inspiration for her collections in memories from her youth and old photographs
Lampoon talks to Claudia Li
How do you bring a vision into full fruition? Forming ideas, images and concepts means to operate beyond the input of our physical senses. It is a period of reflection and relates to aesthetics, taking place before considering the restraints of production. Design is the process that precedes the discipline of manufacturing. Our Fashion Editor Giorgia Fuzio in conversation with Claudia Li.
Claudia Li’s background
My background is in Painting. On my mother’s side of the family everyone is an artist of some sort and my dad is an art dealer, so creativity wasn’t something they taught me – it was baked into the way that they lived, and it was normal. They have believed and supported my decisions, but my dad, till this day, still tells me that my life would be much easier if I painted. I was nineteen, and at this point I had lived in a variety of cities across the South Pacific, and Europe seemed like the next sensible step. I wanted to express myself through my work in a different way other than painting and to connect with people through a different medium. I wanted to create a conversation between my work and its audience. I left home and moved to London. I studied at Central Saint Martin’s for Fashion Design, and it felt like a natural evolution. I didn’t have a master plan, I just wanted to be there, push myself and see what came of it. I was recommended to the Parsons MFA program by my pattern making professor at CSM. In 2012, I moved to New York, and it was one of the best career-defining decisions I’ve made.
Claudia Li Spring/ Summer 2020 inspiration
Henri Matisse was my childhood hero. I think a part of that was because of my mother. Her closet, her garden, her kitchen… were all filled with colors and different shapes and patterns. The inspirations in my collections are informed by my memory and nostalgia. A photograph, a piece of paper with my handwriting, a dried flower that was kept inside a book I never finished. From there we expand our research, and it can be anything, we find words, images, objects, crafts… the more the merrier! There are three of us on the design team, we have fun. We would go off and do our own research and then bounce ideas off of each other. We experiment, so the studio sometimes is filled with water buckets, paints, UV reactive yarns and flowers. The Spring/Summer 2020’s main print was inspired by a photo of my parents in their twenties. My mother in a batik prints floral dress, a thick braid wrapped like a crown around her forehead. We overlapped the print with Plumeria flowers and graphic lines which was a reference to shadows cast on the old photo through our studio windows.
Claudia Li designer
A third-culture kid raised by a family of artists and art dealers, New Zealand bred designer Claudia Li fell in love with fashion and painting at a young age. Following her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Li moved to London to pursue her interest in fashion design at Central Saint Martins, and eventually to New York for an MFA in Fashion Design and Society at Parsons School of Design. She launched her eponymous label in 2015. Known for her architectural silhouettes and unique play of prints, Li’s background in fine arts is visible in her collections, which have earned accolades for their craftsmanship, wearability, and sense of artistry.