Julie Gilhart explores the tensions beneath young designer Andrea Jiapei Li’s newest obsessions.
JULIE GILHART: Do you remember the first time we met?
ANDREA JIAPEI LI: That was such a long time ago. When you met me the first time in the MFA studio, it was such an amazing and inspirational time for me. But it was also an incredibly stress- full time—we were working on finalizing the collection and approaching deadline.
JG: Were you nervous to finish your MFA collection, or were you excited?
AJL: To be honest, I think I was a little nervous because it’s hard to remain in control when you’re graduating from school. The graduating collection is the most important thing you have at that moment. You spend your whole time at school working hard on the collection—it’s like a baby. After you graduate it’s the only key that can open the door to your career.
I was very nervous when I graduated. It’s hard to imagine that people love your collection—or don’t like it. And it can be hard to judge your design ability. Sometimes it’s difficult to find someone who can give you good direction – I’m always searching for a reliable sounding board.
JG: Tell me about your Paris show.
AJL: We showed our collection in the belt show room in Paris [we had a showroom in Paris but did not have a presentation or runway show in Paris]. We actually did really well, and a number of new stores picked up our collection. We’re also working with Dover Street Market for another sea- son, which is exciting.
JG: You have a very sophisticated voice. Do you think that where you are right now is where you thought you would be? How have your ideas evolved?
AJL: For me, before I graduated, I never imagined I would experience all these incredible things that have happened for me. I continue to try my best every time I’m presented with a new oppor- tunity. Sometimes you give the right thing and it is received exactly the way you intended, some- times it’s not.
JG: Do you think your pace is good, or do you think it’s moving too fast?
AJL: I don’t think it’s moving too fast. Right now we’re just trying our best, and making sure to take advantage of every opportunity—but as I said before you can’t control everything. I’m just trying to make it better and better.
JG: What inspires you to design?
AJL: For our collection, I want to develop a simple and modern brand, while still maintaining a certain amount of elegance. I love to focus on the interesting details in our everyday lives, so when I see something intriguing—often it’s not a normal thing—it will give me a great deal of inspiration. I take a picture and put it on our mood board. I do this at the beginning of every new collection, not with the intention of delineating a clear direction, just for research.
JG: What’s next?
AJL: My dreams are constantly changing. Next season I’d like to explore more retail opportunities in Europe. As a designer I always want my clothes to remain fun and playful. I’d like to experiment with creating accessories and other creative endeavors for the brand. We design clothes to tell the story behind the emotions we’re trying to convey, but I think this idea isn’t limited to just designing garments.
All clothing: ANDREA JIAPEI LI F/W 15
Photography: Manolo Campion for NeueJournal
Stylist: Anna Katsanis
Photo assistant: Michael Tessier
Hair: Stefano Greco
Makeup: William Murphy @ Atelier
Set Designer: Ian Salter
Model: Mariana Coldebella
Special Thanks: Root Brooklyn, Ready Set