Photography by Dennis Zhu, Fashion Editor MingMin Fan.
Interview by Tara Lange.
FASHION AS A LANGUAGE. CAPTURING VEGA WANG'S SPIRIT
When passion, creativity, and a genuine desire to be authentic come together, it's a wondrous thing to behold. And to be capable of not only sharing this passion, creativity and authenticity with the world, but making people really feel it, understand it; to inspire them with it. This is a sign of a true artist. Vega Zaishi Wang is one of these artists, a rare breed indeed. At age 30, Wang is at the helm of a seriously successful brand and is recognized as one of China's top designers. But it isn't just her raw talent that garners this distinction. It's her spirit.
Can you describe your upbringing?
I was born on a small island next to Taïwan, in the Liaoning Province, and relocated to Shenzhen at 8 years old. I grew up in nature. Feeling grass, smelling the air, seeing the seasonal changes. I'm a nature loving person, I grew up in the North, near North Korea in the mountains, near the river. I was like a wild child. These are some of the best memories in my mind.
You graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2008. What was it like living in London?
It was such a happy time. There were always people around in london. There was so much freedom. We were students, learning. There was no struggling. We stuck together and inspired each other. Apart from my childhood, that's the time enjoyed the most.
Did London fashion influence you?
I took a lot of inspiration from menswear. My collections are inspired by English tailoring. I try to make clothes that fit Chinese women.
When did you know you wanted to work in fashion?
I hated Chinese education. I took an art class, and realized I wanted to do something with my hands.
Tell me about building your brand. The beginning was hard. I was in a hurry to establish my brand, and didn't have time to stop to think “What do I want. What should I do.” To be a designer isn't hard. but to be sellable is hard. As a designer, you always worry your work won't be as good as you want. You're so worried about showing your soul.
What would you say is the spirit of your brand?
If you really want to make something special, you need to look deep in you and bring out the most truthful things. You have to always be faithful, authentic. I have to be faithful to myself and to my team.
Is quality is incredibly important to you? Yes. Like a craftsman who makes one thing by hand, each thing has a life because each is different. The fabric used for the collections are sourced from Chalutti 181 in Italy. I like to use pure, more natural fibers like wool and cotton. My collection is still handmade - each garment is made by one person. My worst nightmare is to become too big to care about quality.
What does being a designer mean to you?
I love clothing, but fashion is different. Before you go out in the morning, you need to put on clothes. Everyone needs clothes. But why not use clothes as a way to show who you are. Fashion is like a beautiful language. As a designer, you're like a story writer sharing your life with other people. My collections are like my diary. People who care will understand it.
How does your heritage and culture find its way into your designs?
There are too many gaps in Chinese history to really understand it and tell its story. I'm inspired by a lot of old Chinese poetry. And I take inspiration from nature because the land is very fertile. Nature is the law for everything.
So what else inspires your collections?
Elements of military style and vintage. Vintage clothes have a past. My second collection though for example, “First love, Last right” was almost an all red collection. My inspiration was a Russian prisoner tattoo, communism. The meaning of the tattoo – of two stars on the knee - meant you would never bend your knee to bad people. The tattoo was like a form of rebellion. I don't want to align politically but, that's what inspired me.
Any insight into your design process?
First, you have to understand what is your own style - different people have different styles. Designing is like being able to cook. You use a little more sugar or salt and it becomes a totally different dish.
When you design, who do you have in mind?
My past collections had this - really tough girl image. I admire the independent girls, people who have stubborn personalities.
What other designers do you admire?
I like Yohji Yammamoto. People follow trends like sheep. How about you just know which brand you like, and follow it? I also love music. Musicians tell their story better than any designer.
Where do you see your brand in the future?
I had a fear of my business suffering from lost identity. But I accept this fear now, feel at ease with it. The thing to do now: to build and to one day have freedom. In my mind, only a few things can happen. Either you die, you go bankrupt or you end up belonging to some big group. My goal is always to be independent. I don't plan to belong to anybody.