Friday, October 21, 2011

Jessica Au...A Collection where East meets West and the boundaries are limitless!


As I have said before and as I will say time and time again, it is not often that a recently graduated designer becomes nationally recognized straight after university, but when they do, you know they must be one to watch.

Jessica Au burst onto the scene back in 2010 when she delivered her SS11 menswear collection which has since taken the East End London Fashion scene by storm. Her designs have also got her short-listed for the River Island Gold Award at London Fashion Week in addition to being featured in national publications such as: Disorder, Sheer, Artsthread, amongst others.

Her trademark black mesh embellishment is incorporated into each design and is also reflected in her range of perspex accessories. Completely rewriting the rules of fashion, Jessica Au combines high fashion and urban street wear together to create a new style of clothing....a futuristic armor against the harsh, brutal surroundings of inner city life.

Moda de la Mode has been lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with the designer Jessica Au as well as an exclusive look at Au's brand new womenswear collection for SS12. 

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1) Have you always known you wanted to be a designer or has it been something
you fell into?

It's funny when people ask me this, I always thought I would be an illustrator
or animator, I know how "Freddie Got Fingered" that sounds, but I thought I
would be drawing for a living! I dabbled a lot as a teenager, never got my head
around as to what I wanted to do exactly but I knew it would be arty.  For the
first eleven years of my life I was brought up in a council estate in Edinburgh
where fashion wasn't really the most cutting edge.  It was all Adidas tracksuit
bottoms and Kappa gear.  You get the idea.  Then my parents moved their Chinese
Takeaway to Sunderland, in this really rough area where even wearing vintage or
Doc Martens would be bully fodder. I finished sixth form in a Catholic school,
and then went to Newcastle College. I had chosen ceramics and fashion as my
final two subjects, and fashion just won me over because I had this amazing
teacher called Katie McIntyre.  I remember she had this funny voice, always
speaking up so everyone could hear her, she was quite young so the whole class
found her quite easy to gel with. During that course I came across Gareth Pugh
who was only just starting to get big around that time.  I loved his sculptural
mental work, I'd never seen anything like it, for someone of my background.  It
made me second think what fashion could potentially be.  And then I remember not
long after that I met him at a Dazed and Confused Party at the Baltic. After
that I generally just did arty/non-fashion fashion if you could understand, I'd
hammer nails into cardboard for illustrations, and base clothes on genitalia -
all very raw and unrefined when I got my first taste of fashion.  People were
weirded out by my ideas I think.  It was quite an experimental class as not many
of us had really experienced designing "clothes" before. A Geordie Antwerp
class! 
 
2) Talk me through the design process, how do you get from concept to creation?

Generally I start with a theme, or image I've been fixated with.  I root through
the potential that idea has in translating into clothes, if I think it can
expand and evolve then I'll begin collecting images, films, music and visit
relevant exhibitions, and of course draw, a lot!  Without drawing I can't move my
ideas forward.  It's almost like I think with my hands.  Another aspect that
helps is talking about my ideas with the people around me.  I think allowing
your thoughts to be heard and criticised by others is important to not latching
onto the first idea I have. It's easy to be secretive about your work, and shut
off.  No matter how drawn I am to the initial visualisation I have in my head, I
always think it should be able to progress into something completely different.
That's only when I feel like there is actually a meaningful process happening.

3) What has been the most motivational thing that has happened to you with regards to your designing?
 
I love that around the corner with each new project, there is always something
new and undiscovered to embark upon.  There is this never ending drive inside to
keep learning, keeping seeing and hearing the new.  It is the hunger and sense
of adventure I get from fashion which keeps my motivation alive.  
I enjoy being in magazines, blogs and websites, but I think for me, credibility
lies in people wanting to pay money to buy your work and wear it.  When I found
my first stockist on Brick Lane, at the 123 Store, for the first time I actually
felt validated as a designer.  And being stocked next to two of my favourite
designers, Dr Noki and William Richard Green!  I eventually found another two
stockists, another on Brick Lane, Shop 172, and Teknopolice who are based in
Japan.  The fact that people are willing to put my things on display in their
shop and sell it off to their customers acts as a big motivational drive for me
to keep designing and producing more collections.  We are nothing without our
fans and customers! 
  
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4) What does fashion mean to you? How has it shaped who you are as a person and as a designer?
 
Fashion is a great way to express myself, but it doesn't govern my whole life.
 I feel lucky to have fashion as another aspect of my life, as well as my job,
friends, and family.  I think for people who are creative, it's easy to get
sucked into your work, live in your head 24/7 and have little time for anything
else.  Over the years I've learned I'm much happier when I balance everything,
not to overload on too much of anything.  It's also taught me to work extra
hard, if you want anything enough, you can work hard enough to get it.
 
5) What inspires you to design? Many designers have a muse, do you have one and if so why do they inspire you?
 
I don't fixate on one muse. A lot of people inspire me, in fact, real people who
I see everyday are very inspiring, around Dalston and Shoreditch.  And of
course, people like Bjork, and Roisin Murphy and The Knife, all for very
different reasons.  I love Bjork especially because she has no boundaries as to
what clothes can be.  And she's beautiful in her own way, she's not your average
size 0 model with big eyes and long hair. She's a real woman with a lot of
interesting talent, and a brilliant mind.  She's outspoken too and ballsy. My
first womenswear collection which is coming out soon this year, is based on
Bjork.  She's in a league of her own. I generally get alot of my inspiration
from paintings, and illustrations I find everywhere, on the net, in magazines,
in libraries.  My first love is drawing and painting, and fashion comes a close
second.  But the great thing about fashion is that I can always combine the two
together.
  
 6) What is the best bit of advice you have received?
 
"If you only had today to live, would you carry on doing what you're doing now?"
 Very Steve Jobs-esque, it's an old one that strikes a chord and never grows
tired.  It helps me keep in check my decisions because it's easy to forget that
we're all mortal, so there's not much point in thinking, "I'll do it tomorrow".


7) What advice would you give someone trying to break into the industry?

I think with my path, if you want to pursue a fashion designer's career, then
every baby step counts.  Especially with my generation where digitalisation of
fashion has accelerated the cycle of fashion, you need to keep your audience
updated constantly with what you're doing, otherwise your voice will get lost
amidst the sea of thousands of other designers.  Social networks like Facebook
and Twitter are really useful for promoting your label and I think everyone
should make good use of it.
And let's not forget the old fashion hard basics - willpower, hardwork,
determination, and remaining true to who you are.

 

8) Are you excited about being stocked in an East End boutique? What surprises do you have in store for us?

For now I'm working on finding more stockists and expanding the brand more in
Japan and Europe. I feel like my clothes have a market appeal to these two
populations especially.  I want to start creating more accessories as it's such
a free way of designing in comparison to clothes which are constrained by size,
fit etc. Accessories are doubly as fun to make.
 
9) Many designers such as Dolce & Gabbana use fashion bloggers to promote
their collections and attend their shows? What is your view on fash
ion blogging
and do you think it has a positive or negative effect on designers?

Nowadays designers and the like are realising that bloggers are basically
self-annointed journalists - they're just as important as magazines, and TV as
they reach a very large audience.  People like Susie Bubble for example have
such a huge fan base that they're as influential as Dazed and Confused, or
Style.com.  In terms of whether I think it's positive or negative, it's a bit of
both just like everything else.  If someone is speaking good or bad about your
work on their blog, you have to remember that at the end of the day, they're
entitled to their opinion.
 
10) What have you got planned for the future of Jessica Au?

For the short term, I'm focusing on releasing the SS12 womenswear collection
with a short fashion film and a lookbook, maybe a presentation too.  I'm excited
to get more contacts with stockists, bloggers and magazines, there are a lot of
talented people out there that I'm looking to collaborate with.  The next
collection AW12, I'll be collaborating with another artist, and we'll be aiming
for both a womenswear and menswear collection.  I'm aiming to have a stronger
focus on accessories and footwear for the next collection, with a good amount of
print. 
 
If you like what you have seen then please visit Jessica's website where you can find a lot more information. http://www.jessica-au.com/
 
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