Interview with Zeyi Studio
by Mary Winkenwerder
Mary Winkenwerder is a writer, blogger, seasoned beauty expert and published makeup artist. She blogs at Ultimate Report when she’s not helping others in the industry expand their visibility through her philanthropy project called Published Project. You can find her blogging lifestyle (fashion, runway, beauty, seasonal color, food, family) at Ultimate Report.
Editorial Note: In our lead-up to another season of New York Fashion Week (next installment begins in September), we’re showcasing designers who may not be “household names” yet, but are making waves in the fashion community. Meet some of the big-name designers of the future.
Cold Hives I Adaptation, the first collection from ZEYI Studio, teaches us to look at situations from a different perspective. From the time she started her formal design education, Jacqueline Zeyi Chen wanted to use fashion to create awareness. The designer is inspired by the fantasy and depth of James Jean and Grayson Perry, as they give her an inspiration perspective of life which would contribute to her concepts. These bits of information sparked a deeper probe to learn more about this creative driving force.
Q: At what point in life did you decide that you wanted to express through design?
I have always enjoyed expressing my feelings through paintings and drawings when I was in middle school and high school. When I began my study at Parsons I knew I wanted to use fashion design not only for beauty but as a tool to express controversial issues, bring awareness, and as a personal expression.
Q: How has being a designer changed your life? Has it enhanced your point of view?
Being a designer helped broaden my view of life and learned to look at problems in a different perspective, then eventually convey it through 2D or 3D forms.
Q: How important is seasonal color when creating a collection? What motivates your use of seasonal color?
Seasonal color is important in creating a seasonal collection like SS and FW because it brings the wearer in the atmosphere. When I’m creating my color palette I usually focus on what goes with my inspiration first, then I adjust some of those colors to match the season.
(Photos: Ed Ng Photography)
Q: When you wake up in the morning, what is your first thought generally? How does this first thought inspire and spark activity into your creative day?
My first thought in the morning that would generally inspire and spark my creativity for the rest of the day are often my dreams I have: very wild and vivid dreams all the time. Other times I imagine what I want to achieve or create today and work toward it throughout the day.
I have very wild and vivid dreams.
Q: How long is a typical workday for you? How do you stay motivated?
Duration of my work varies based on my motivation level, it ranges from 8 to 12 hours to sometimes 24 hours when I can’t stop working. Sometimes when I get really into the idea and I can’t stop until I finish.
Q: How does everyday life inspire your work? Were there any daily life elements that inspired your collection? If so, what are they?
I think most of my inspirations comes from the everyday life of myself or others. It’s the Seasonless 2017 collection. The concept came from my experiences of the cold hive, the silhouettes, and layering … many came from my how I dressed daily during that time.
Q: What message did you want to convey through the creation of this collection? Why is it important that this message is understood? Do you believe that this message has been clearly heard?
Through this collection, I want to show how a bad experience in the past can also become something beautiful just as long you turn around and look at it from another side. Something we drill over a problem deep and cannot stop feeling bad for ourselves but when you look at it from another side there would always be a brighter end to it. I think the message is not very literal in the collections but something you feel after learning the concept behind and look at the collection.
I want to show how a bad experience in the past can also become something beautiful.
Q: Let’s talk about hair and makeup. Who is the team you chose to work with to create these finishing touches? Why were these artistic touches important in presenting your collection?
For this collection, I was looking for a natural, soft, wet hair, and glossy eye look. The makeup and hair were Mag Kashimura and Iso Tomomi for my first shoot, and May Cui for the onsite editorial shoot.
Q: What is your favorite out of studio activity? Why?
I tend to be into different activities at different times and right now I have been enjoying working out to clear up my mind sometimes.
Q: What aspirations do you have for the growth of your line moving forward?
Moving forward I’m looking to creating fashion collections that help to bring awareness to social issues in our society today while still beautiful and creative.
Q: What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome when creating this collection?
The choice of fabric was a hurdle in creating this collection.
Q: In terms of demographic, who does your line speak to the loudest?
The ’20s to ’30s females with bold sense of style.
Q: Collections are made up of pieces that cohesively come together for presentation. What types of pieces make up this particular collection?
Hand-manipulated knit cami dress/top, off the shoulder floor length coat, layered apron, asymmetric layered vest, multi-wear sculptural cape, and half jackets.
Q: What are the most meaningful things in life? How do you stay centered in such a forward moving creative space?
Learning … to me the most important thing in life is learning. To continuously learn about different aspects of life and fields of knowledge. Being curious of it all is what keeps me in this forward-moving creative space.
The most important thing in life is learning.
Q: Did your childhood activities ever reflect your current passion for design? If so, how so? If not, how so?
I loved doing coloring books when I was little and something I did that is different from others is that I like to draw out of the lines. I was kinda rebellious and didn’t understand why can’t I draw around it and make it into something else. That might have been the start of my passion for design.
I liked to draw out of the lines.
Q: In this collection, how are accessories and shoes worked into this creative mix? Did you create your own or did you partner with another designer? If so, who did you partner with and why?
Some main accessories in this collection are the monofilament knit scarf, cross body flatten wool hat, loose knitted long socks, and shoes are sourced from different stores: simple white strap heels and white loafers. For some styles, I put the loose-knitted long socks over the white strap heels.
Q: Hand created design elements can make incredible finishing touches on garments. Does this collection bear any hand created elements? If so, what are they?
Throughout the collection, you can find spontaneous bold irregular hand stitches on different areas of some garments, that abstractly imitate the skin condition. Also, the knitted cami tops were hand knitted with weaving different kinds of yarns in every to every other roll to create the textures.