Revolutionary of the Month – Vincent Li
Meet Vincent Li, the exciting talent behind this eponymous label and our Revolutionary of the Month. Shanghai born, Li worked in IT, before giving in to his creative side and studying fashion in Melbourne, Hong Kong and in London.
Tell us about your journey to fashion. What inspired you to start designing?
Being a Dancer, Performer and Entertainer was what I wanted to do. However it wasn’t supported by my dad. After school I started a career in IT as it fit my parent’s ideal life for me. I never thought I’d be able to have a career in a different field. I’ve always been passionate about the art of design and I love shopping, especially when I was working in Shanghai. After work I would go shopping, not to buy anything but to see the shops and feel the environment. As I got older and traveled, I saw more diversity in fashion and developed my personal style.
Working in IT in Melbourne helped me decide that I wanted to work in fashion as I wasn’t passionate about IT and didn’t see it as my future. I enrolled in a part-time course at the Melbourne Fashion Institute to study Pattern Making and Garment Construction. The creative process and creating something of my own was very enjoyable. After finishing the course, I quit my job and enrolled into Fashion Design in Hong Kong. After graduating I did an internship in London during the summer of 2007 for the JW Anderson Women’s collection, it was a really great experience. Then I moved back to Melbourne and was very clear that I wanted to design menswear, which was when I started my label Vincent Li.
What are your main design influences?
My influences have developed over time. In the very beginning I was influenced by architecture. Now I’m more likely to use my personal experiences, emotions and feelings to inspire my designs which is quite similar to dancing. I find the two are connected. Then I started to read a lot of books and articles to see what other artists are inspired by. It’s really broad and then I find what I want to be inspired by for each collection. There are always messages underlying each of my collections. It’s not just about clothes, it’s also telling a story.
Who is your target clientele?
I used to define my clients by age, gender and demographic but last year I was involved in a program which opened pop-up stores around Melbourne and I had the opportunity to speak to customers buying my designs. They ranged from 16-year-old high school girls to 65-year-old ladies and men as well, so it’s hard to define exactly. My clothing is genderless so I now define my customer by their lifestyle, personality and hobbies. Vincent Li customers also respect craftsmanship and appreciate the effort, the texture, the shape and find it interesting. They are hopefully very interested in art, architecture, travel and also especially in Asian culture. They are not a trend follower. They have confidence. They buy pieces because they’re unique for themselves and they don’t dress to show off to anyone else.
What excites you most about designing? What is your favourite part of the design process?
One thing that excites me is developing the concept that I’m going to use for my next collection. I do wide research, find pictures and make collages and from that I start drawing rough sketches. Then I find one thing that I find really interesting and make that they key of the collection which defines the feeling of the clothes. Now I have direction; but nothing too obvious, I don’t really like something literal.
The second thing that excites me is when all of the samples are finished and it’s the first time we put the clothing on the models. Even when we are doing fittings, I think it is necessary to represent the real story with hair and makeup, so I can see what I imagined in the beginning come to life. Then I can finally know that it works. That’s the moment that I get satisfaction.
Tell us about your latest collection.
My latest collection is called Zero. When developing the concept, I started thinking about my life and how it’s been constantly re-started by moving countries and careers. From dance to IT, I tried a little bit of singing, then back to IT, then I changed to design. My constant re-starting was what I wanted to use as inspiration for this collection. I wanted the collection to be fresh, very earthy, kind of newish in terms of how I design the silhouettes.
There’s lots of circular shapes in the design. It’s very different from what I’ve done before. For this collection, the colour tones are not super busy and bright in your face. It’s earthy and toned down, sophisticated and it has a poetic feeling.
I’ve been thinking about how to balance the creativity and the business side of my brand. This collection is one of the most wearable but also most interesting as well. It looks simple but it’s not simple at all. I want the wearer to look at it and think it has a really beautiful shape. In terms of the construction, detail and support, it’s actually quite complicated.
After the Zero collection, I want to go back to my other collections as there were lots of pieces in each collection and there are still pieces which people love. I want to consolidate what was most popular, most loved and the key pieces. I want to look at them and see what I can adjust, based on customer feedback and then develop them into different textures and colours so they would become my ongoing core pieces. I think that’s important. That’s why people keep coming back. If my pieces can stand the test of time, people will keep them and keep wearing them.
I will also continue my involvement in the Australia Fashion Council. Towards the end of the year, they will select a designer from the program to send to Hong Kong for a pop-up collaboration with a local designer during Hong Kong Design Week 2018. While I’m there, I’m planning to explore opportunities in Asia as I had great feedback when I launched my first collection in 2015.
I’m also collaborating with a friend who opened a new hotel in China and asked me to design the uniform. I have done the preliminary design but I still need to fine tune it as the hotel is still finalizing their image and I need to make sure it suits all of their staff, no matter their height, size or shape while maintaining my creativity in designing.
What’s your ultimate goal for you and your label?
I’ve tried to bring back a connection and a feeling with my clothes. So when you put the clothes on, it affects your mood. When you walk down the street, you will walk differently because the clothes have impacted your style, your mood and your behaviour. It’s not just on the surface, it’s related to your personality.
I would love for my clothing to be stocked in my favourite boutiques and department stores and for more people to know my designs and understand my philosophy. I would love for more people to try something different and unique, to take a risk. I find that people take fashion and clothes too seriously and worry too much about what other people think. Even just to try things. They should just take it off the rack and try it on and experience it and be a bit more open minded. You might find out more about yourself and also to develop your own style. That’s one of my main goals.
Vincent Li Designs @vincentlistudio
Story: Jacqui Miholos