Lauren Jin: Get inspired by your own curves

2016
22nd March

Walking into the Fashion studios of the Royal College of Art can be intimidating. Mannequins and fabrics are all around, and everyone is working silently. The white draperies wrapped around Lauren Jin’s desk, alongside her life drawings and a book cover attached to what appeared to be her mood board, immediately caught our eye. “My favourite author of all time is Murakami,” she enthusiastically shares. “For me, the entirety of his book 1Q84, is what I aspire to live like. Subtle but intricate details, the extraordinarily ordinary mundane time, the tint of fantasy and the realistic love plot.” We were curious to discover the story behind her upcoming graduate collection, and sat down with the designer to find out where her desire for the body (and clothing it) started.

“It all started when I was five years old — I took a long scarf from my mother’s closet, draped a dress with it and went to church in it. When I made the decision to pursue art, I guess that memory stuck with me, and I chose to focus on fashion. And because fashion is all about dressing the body, I focused on drawing the body all the time. In order to dress the body, I needed to understand the body itself. And what better way to learn than drawing it?”

Lauren first tried to get into her local art school when she was only 11 years old. Fast forward a couple of years, and she has experienced different vibes and teaching methods all the way from Los Angeles, where she went to Andlab art academy, to New York, where she did her BFA in Knitwear at Parsons, and even a year abroad, studying Womenswear at Central Saint Martins. With such an extensive educational background in mind, Lauren explains what’s exciting about studying at the RCA and in which ways her work process has changed: “I think I’ve become more creative in terms of opening up possibilities. Before, I was more realistic and technical in my thinking processes, and only focused on garment construction. But now, I kind of try to envision the whole picture more. If it didn’t adhere to the rules of reality, then I would’ve instantly denied it was possible to create, whereas now, if I have an idea or a thought, I try to bend the rules a bit to make it happen. To me, studying at the RCA means that I can inevitably do anything I want.”

The starting point for her upcoming graduate collection is ‘drawing the nude’, something she has been actively doing since the age of 15. More specifically, her new work is based on two life drawings she did of herself. Each of them was completed within half a minute. “I always find it ironic and ridiculous that I am spending nearly a year on something I did in 30 seconds,” she jokes. In the beginning, Lauren analysed each line, mark making, ink and pencil density on the paper, as well as the proportions of the drawing, and where the negative and positive spaces are present. From her analysis, she was able to find out where she wanted to expose the body, and focus on recreating specific lines. Millinery crin comes into play as a textiles obsession in materialising this work, Lauren tells us. “It’s used as soft scaffolding for my jersey pieces. It’s a tricky little fella, but I think I’ve finally got the hang of taming it a bit. Because it’s plastic, woven on the bias, it’s very springy and can easily bend in a completely different way.”

Lauren Jin’s fittings

When drawing your own body, did you feel any pressure to alter its appearance?

“To be honest, I was actually surprised that I wasn’t as big as I imagined. I think the eye is totally different when you are drawing and look at the mirror, where you see yourself stark naked. Like in most life drawing sessions, when one is drawing, the eye focuses on the proportion, negative and positive space, limbs as geometric shapes. After looking at my drawings and myself just as I am, I actually felt better about myself and kind of accepted my body more. After I drew myself for three days, for the first time in 24 years, I truly accepted my body and loved it. My drawings are abstracted, in the sense that there is no face, and it’s mainly a torso. I feel that there would be more of an impact if there were a photograph of myself in the same cropping, and the drawing next to it. Then, the realness of what I drew would hit the viewer more.”

While her work is based on something physical, Lauren explains that nudity has always been a sort of taboo in her family. “Sexual topics, such as the birds and the bees talk, was never mentioned. I still to this day, have never had that talk with my parents.” Even books on nude drawings had to be kept high up in a cupboard, so her younger siblings couldn’t look through it. For a long time, Lauren’s concepts were never about her personally. “It was always two levels away from myself,” she reflects. Now, she doesn’t really care about what others think about her sketches, especially the ones of her own body. “I think my life-drawing session was more for myself, and it was very personal. It’s almost like a diary entry, where it documents a certain moment in my life. I don’t think it would ever be publicly displayed.”

Embracing the body in its entirety and focusing on the acceptance of the self, do notions of blurring the boundaries between gender distinction ever play into her body? “I don’t think labels are really that important. It is more about who is relevant for the garment itself. Plus, I think gender fluidity would only be successfully possible if it happened gradually. Like any shift in society, I think it will eventually happen, and merging the shows, like some big brands have recently been doing, is one indicator.”

What does she actually think about the industry she’s about the enter upon graduation? “I would want the spotlight to be shined on young designers more. I think these days the fashion world is too preoccupied with celebrities. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure if you have the funds and the will, anyone can do anything these days, but fashion is still a very serious, special form of design and art. It takes a lot of bloodshed to be successful in this industry, and I just wished media outlets would shed some light onto young designers who really are pushing the front lines of fashion.”

Words Teresa Fogolari

All images courtesy of Lauren Jin