Process transformation for degree collection
With passion and energy and without any regrets, Yvonne Lin is today, a Canadian Fashion Designer. This reality would have been difficult to foretell only a few years ago; Yvonne’s destiny was not clear from the onset. Born in China, Yvonne immigrated to Canada as teenager; Fashion was never part of her life plan. That is until grade 10, when Yvonne attended a fashion show at her high school and got enthralled by the idea that anyone could make clothes which could actually be worn as well as express one-self this way.
Before she could enrol at Ryerson Fashion School, Yvonne had to convince her family, traditionally Asian in this respect, that it would be a good idea for her to study fashion. Her determination and obvious talent did the trick.
FORMATION, Yvonne’s degree collection, is monochrome; its white garments are structured yet soft. They do not over sexualize the female form. Designed for a contemporary woman, they balance femininity and strength. Yvonne immersed herself with passion in the design of this collection. The strength of her design process led to the creation of garments able to stands alone by themselves; both affirmative and desirable.
Yvonne, what did you intend to achieve as you started designing FORMATION?
This collection focused on the concept behind the designs rather than the commercial viability of the resulting garments. These pieces would have to be made-to-order as the majority of techniques I used are hand techniques. In addition most of the material I used is expensive. The beautiful leather that was produced and given to me by Canadian leather company Danier does not come cheap and I am very grateful for their generosity.
What inspired your collection?
In many different ways my collection owes a lot to the amazing paper columns of Swiss architect Michael Hansmeyer. These columns are proper columns, solid, about nine feet tall but they are made of thin paper cardboard, cut into different shapes, stacked up and held together by a wooden core. Each design contains between 8 and 16 million polygonal facets.
Both their architectural details and design method inspired me. I also found a powerful meaning in them, for me they became emblematic of the complexity of life.
Can you explain how they became to mean so much to you?
I’m not a verbal person and look to art as a mean of expression and communication. When I look at Hansmeyer’s columns, I see a representation, a metaphor for life. We start life as a blank sheet of paper. As it carries on, we try different things, we experience reunions and separations, ups and downs; each layer makes us stronger and more complex. Like for the columns, the resulting pattern is not black and white but beautifully complex.
Earlier you said that the columns also inspired your design process. Could you explain what you meant?
To an extent, I reproduced the idea behind the production the column: I used plain white material and transformed it into three-dimensional forms through simple repeated transformations involving traditional hand techniques and innovative pattern drafting.
Tell us about the process of designing your collection
I approached it in a way I never had before. I realise now that previous to this collection I thought technically rather than creatively. I would only design what I knew how to construct. It kind of limited me.
The design process of FORMATION was much more interesting and challenging. I would start by sketching something abstract and then figured out how to make it. In addition the result had to convey meaning. I paid a lot of attention to the process of developing the patterns and tested with 3 dimensional pattern drafting.
It certainly was a lot of fun to explore the unknown rather than repeat things I already knew. Sometimes I would get stuck creatively so I would just play with fabrics, cut them, drape them, and something unexpected would happen.
This creativity really matters for your degree collection; it is meant to show you audience and prospective employers what makes you special.
You said you used a lot of hand techniques, please tell us about them.
There is a lot of detailing in my collection, in particular the 3D slashing that can be seen on the leather Dress and Jacket. The leather had to be slashed by hand and sewn to the base of the garment to create the 3 D forms. Another hand technique is the smocking. The smocking shirts were first sewn together and then smocked to shrink the size to fit.
I loved doing handwork. I love focusing on one thing for a long time, it makes me feel calm and peaceful, something that I find difficult to achieve living in a big city.
What is the strongest memory of your time at Ryerson?
When the course started I was a bit nervous: everyone seemed to know what they were doing; I did not. But very soon I did not even have time to think about it; it was all about studying. Every semester I tried to fill up my schedule with variety of courses, such as millinery, history of costume, corsetry etc.
These courses helped me open my horizon and explore different areas of design. When looking back at my portfolio that I built over the school years, I had very different design styles, and now I slowly find and build my own style.
My final year was really interesting. The studio became our home; funnily enough it was lab 247 and we were there, 24/7!
The group became very close. We complained to each other and cheered for one another; there were tears and stress, but no matter how hard it was, passion kept us going.
Don’t think that because you like shopping and dressing up, studying fashion is the right choice for you. Designing fashion is not always as glamour as it looks. To be a designer you need to be passionate about designing and sewing. There is a lot of hard work involved.
I understand that your collection has been very well received?
I was a finalist at the ID international Emerging Designer Award in New Zealand, judged by fashion icons such as Hilary Alexander (UK), Nicholas Huxley (Australia) and Lutz Huelle (France). It was so inspiring to see other designer’s work. In July, I was one of the winners for the Who’s Next Prêt-à-Porter in Paris where I met international buyers, designers and editors. My first time in Europe was a wonderful experience.
I also have the honor to collaborate with Canadian leather company Danier. Two of my designs, the smocking shirt and the leather slashing pants is being mass produced for their Fall collection and will be available in stores across Canada. This is an amazing feeling!
So what are your plans now?
After graduation I took a month off and traveled a bit, visiting friends and family.
I am back in Toronto now and working on a Ready-To-Wear collection.
FORMATION is kind of a conceptual Art-to-Wear collection. I want to see how I evolve it into something more commercially viable. In parallel I am looking want to work in the industry, gaining more experience before I think about developing my own label.