Honing traditional crafting techniques to create a distinctly contemporary aesthetic, C.J Yao is the CSM womenswear graduate, who’s also a skilled carpenter.
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Shanghai born and now London based designer C.J Yao speaks quietly, preferring her work to deliver full impact on looks alone. Naming her outstanding debut collection, shown earlier this year, ‘Wood Be’, the emerging design talent sourced fine silk timbres and used thick strings and fringes to replicate the formation of antique Chinese instruments. Describing her design aesthetic as “experimental and contemporary”, the 27-year-old raven-haired creative wants her clothes to be instantly identifiable, in the subtlest way possible. Mentored by her father and advised by her mother, C.J’s materials communicate effortlessly with one another. Crocheting, knitting and carving her collection out of an array of mediums, her chic and intelligent catwalk show caught i-D online’s imagination. Find out why in our exclusive short and Q & A with C.J Yao.
Where are you right now and what are you doing? At home and lying on my bed.
What are you wearing? Basic oversized v-neck t-shirt in black
Who or what first inspired you to want to design your own clothes? I just wanted to be different from everyone and everything else. The first drawing I ever did was of a dress when I was very young. Ever since then I wanted to be a fashion designer, it just became a little dream of mine.
Who is your style icon? Daily life.
What aspects of your personality does your dress sense portray? I prefer big colour blocking done simply or just monochrome.
What is your earliest memory of your mother’s style? Chic. Dressed in a blue stripy flared dress with a pair of white pumps.
What are some of your favourite brands and labels? Givenchy, Maison Martin Margiela, Celine, Bless…
What’s your favourite colour? Grey
Where do you want to be in five years, what will you be doing, who will you be doing it with and what will you be wearing? Backstage of my show, waiting for the applause, with my family and friends, wearing CJ Yao.
What kind of woman do you design for? A feminist. The woman has a great sense of wearing clothes and independent.
How did it feel to see your final collection on the runway? I had to say “calm down” to myself.
What are you looking forward to next? Preparing the next collection and planning to set up my studio in the very near future.
Text: Milly McMahon