This is Not Project Runway
Photography by Aldo Carrera
Styling by Simon Ungless
All Clothes Designed by Wei Bai and Jianxia Ji
At the half-way stage of the Master of Fine Art degree, candidates present their midpoint review. They show the work completed over the duration of their studio courses and propose what they plan to do for their senior thesis project. For designers in the School of Fashion with their sights set on showing at the School of Fashion’s show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, this means presenting their pre-collection.
When MFA Fashion Design students, Wei Bai and Jianxia Ji, decided to collaborate on their pre-collection project, they challenged themselves to produce and present a retail-ready collection of 45 looks and used the opportunity to launch their brand, EMIT.
Their talent did not go unnoticed by the midpoint review panel and in the fall of 2013, Wei and Jianxia were asked to present their EMIT Fall/Winter 2013/14 Collection in a combined runway show and photo-shoot. The EMIT presentation exemplified the university’s collaborative spirit. Not only did the two designers have the opportunity to work together on the collection, but the student-run fashion club, Beyond the Front Row (BtFR), worked together on producing the launch event. As a BtFR board member, I had the opportunity to work closely with these two inspiring designers on casting, booking and fitting the models, designing the runway, the lighting and music as well as managing the backstage production at the event.
As we stood amongst the photographers and models before the show started, I sensed we were part of something remarkable, setting a new precedent in the midpoint review process.
Wei and Jianxia certainly proved they had the ability to “wow” with a pre-collection and I look forward to seeing the Spring 2015 collection they are working on for the university’s September show at Lincoln Center.
We sat down and spoke with the designers about their experience launching a line, and the process of pre-collection.
What was the aesthetic you were going for? What was your main source of inspiration?
WEI: Chic, easy and modern. We want people in the busy world to look chic and not spend too much time styling themselves. We want them to have fun with the clothes. This collection was inspired by the 1960s. The silhouette of the garments, the lifestyle of the women, and the change of their mindset during this time were all points of inspiration for us.
What originally inspired the name EMIT or “TIME”?
JIANXIA: On the day of the fashion show, we invited people from different cities and countries so that it was not only a local audience. They came from different time zones and had different “jet lags.” In Chinese, jet lag means an upset in the order of TIME, so we came up with EMIT.
WEI: To me, time means memory; it tells stories. History has always been one of my favorite topics to study as well as the clothes from past fashions. Each period of time has a different story, and so does the clothing. Time passes, but stories remain. EMIT means that we select the stories from the past and combine them with modern elements to emit to a modern look. We want the designs to make people look chic and modern, as well as associate the story in that time.
What went into pre-collection? How did your line evolve throughout the process?
JIANXIA: With this collection, I learned what goes into a runway show while also finding our target audience. Before we began designing, we did a lot of market research. For the runway show, we needed every piece to be perfectly placed all while finding the balance between wear ability and design.
We have seen much change in the fashion world due to globalization - How do you think that effects the connection between the West (U.S.) and China?
WEI: Many Western designers nowadays get their inspiration from China. On the other hand, more and more young Chinese designers choose to study abroad in the U.S. and bring that aesthetic back to China. It is a constant exchange of fashion culture.
How did you grow as designers? How were you able to merge Asian and Western cultures into this collection?
WEI: The fashion field has taught me that I should keep doing what I love. Designers should have their own viewpoint in fashion…you have to know what you like and don’t like. The way you consistently design will become your style.
I don’t think there is a big difference between modern people in China and the U.S. I think the only difference is style. Differences are not only between countries, but also between people. Some people like vintage style, while others like tomboy style. We define our target market and try to understand them, and then we design with them in mind.
JIANXIA: Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamt of becoming a fashion designer. I grew up designing dresses for my small dolls. My mom’s closet was my idea of a fabric store and I would cut swatches of clothes just for a small piece of lace. After graduating from my prior fashion design university, I came to the U.S. to study fashion at Academy of Art University. With this collection, I am working towards achieving my dream.
Make-up by Victor Cembellin for Workgroup using MAC Cosmetics. Hair by Joel Cortes. Models: DeeDee, Sydny, Layla and Anna V. at Stars Model Management.