Snow Xue Gao’s story, member of the hyper select class of Parsons’ alumni, starts like this: she presented her AW17 collection on VFiles’ runway last February. That Friday night February 10, Snow was playing hard, overwhelmed with the excitement of seeing her work showcased in front of fashion’s high society. There was barely enough time to realise the impact of such an exposure, or the financial devil caught her in her momentum: “what is the actual prices of the clothes?!“ The decision choice was quickly made, she will be up all night, for different reasons than expected. She admits to already missing her MA degree lifestyle at Parsons, where she graduated last September.
As an emerging young designer, facing the harsh world of finance and dealing with people who do not care about fashion design for aesthetics’ sake, is not just a first step to make, but a whole bridge to burn. Although she is positioning her brand as a small start-up, she seems to be already strongly aware of the fine balance between the creative sphere and the Wolf of Wall Street universe she finds herself forced to face.
Exotic fabrics flowing down tailored trousers legs; the womenswear designer and ex-stylist did not even have to draw them. The process matters too much. “You design clothes from clothes,” she claims, describing her creative outcome: born in a vintage shop, shaped onto a mannequin, then completed with a sharp tailoring savoir-faire.
It all sounds natural, when she explains that tailoring has been her strength since her fashion BA projects in Bejing, a precision she was willing to bring to the Big Apple. According to her, it’s impossible to deny the survival of tailoring in New York’s street: “It’s always there.” Renewing and deconstructing through the use of new/old and contrasting materials, Snow keeps chasing that perfect balance between her roots and the western culture, for which technique is key: “perhaps only a small part [of the garment] gets modified,” she adds, “and the inside is really important, it is all hand stitched.”
Snow owes her peculiar creative process to her background in fashion styling – this is how she entered the industry in Bejing: “the garment is the beginning thing. The model can then change its meaning, the photographer can then re-appropriate it, and so on.” Although she knows exactly what she wants and where she is going, she reckons the need for “trusting people for more strength in the collections.” She would do it all by herself in the extreme scenario, but “killing possibilities and opinions if doing so.”
“A garment is just a person living in the world that is fashion.”
Such a consideration for clothing as an entity on its own could appear as full of laziness, almost like a collage/mixed media expression form; that is simply the designer who is lazy actually. “I’m lazy. And I cut it,“ was the mood of one of her Parsons’ assignment indeed, called the ‘Fridge Fruit’ installation. Interestingly, a metaphorical understanding could accuse fashion of still aiming for the forbidden fruit, aka the subversive and provocative. Perhaps not this time.
Her past fruit obsession simply erupted from one of the busiest periods at Parsons: “You open the fridge, you go to work, it doesn’t feel like a life!“ Snow used to feel like living, eating and dreaming fabrics. She admits: “food is my friend, I eat and then go to work.“ And she is not lazy but simply works slowly and is therefore late for a lot of things. No creative heart would be in position to judge. No time for the gym, so she got obsessed with fruits. That’s it.
Time appears primordial in Snow’s universe: she believes in allowing the garment to tell a story, while leaving it to fully engage with the body all along.The only inspiration towards her designs comes from the process of styling itself, and no research. The Teddy Girls in the back of her dreamy mind, she wants to “see her girls look boyish but elegant, independent, looking cool.“ Wearing the lining outside is fundamental, as the last look of her collection proves. If you look closer, you will see repetitive patterns throughout the whole line-up: a white circle between red lines. An influence she discovered in the Tibetan religion meaning “good thing,” which she obviously redesigned, respectfully appropriating it for a further brand logo development. Eventually.
A couple of two girls, one with manly manners, the other more feminine with her long hair, walk together; a simple story for a well-thought and elaborate puzzle of fabrics.
As beautifully said by the contemporary tailoring master herself: “a garment is just a person living in the world that is fashion.” Her vision is truly hers, there is no doubt about that. “It’s a thing of editors to compare emerging talents with current big brands,” she mentions with an amused laugh. “This is how the industry works on the other hand.” Well, Snow, keep twisting, pinching, and tying-up; businesswomen will never look as cool as they do when wearing your customised tailoring Western fashion. That refreshing exotic nonchalance all out and about.
Words Cindy Fournier Images Courtesy of Snow Xue Gao