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Hybridising fashion and objects through the work of Grace Ling

Grace Ling on eccentric elegance and intelligent femininity

On her Instagram, Grace Ling shows the circle frame from which she peels off a jacket, it is “a transition from being at home too long, almost being one with the furniture”.  In a world where everyone has developed a closer relationship with the furniture in their house, the idea of similarities between the home and the body isn’t far off.

Check Grace Ling’a portfolio on Pinterest

Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Grace Ling, Lookbook
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling

“I always found myself making things – bags, wallets, iPhone cases. At some point, I realised that there’s a whole industry where this is a real job.”

Before her time at Parsons, Grace was modelling, shooting for Crazy Rich Asians and studying fine arts and sculpture in her home city of Singapore. She began creating accessories, fed up with not being able to find things she liked that were both functional and humorous. “I always found myself making things – bags, wallets, iPhone cases. At some point, I realised that there’s a whole industry where this is a real job.”

Grace takes inspiration from the unsettling atmosphere of Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: Space Odyssey and the interaction between inanimate objects and the human body as well as elements of anthropomorphism, the attribution of human characteristics to animals or objects in her designs. She looks at fashion as an absurd satire, even referring to how corporate executives are called ‘sharks’ in her dorsal shark suiting. “Humans have this innate tendency to have an emotional response to a sculptural and anthropomorphic form. For me, dystopian films and my work is my way of accepting how the world’s absurd systems work.”

Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Grace Ling, Design Development
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Grace Ling, Design Development
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Grace Ling, Lookbook
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling

“I like some aspects to be more subtle because I think the collection and the brand are about this eccentric elegance and intelligent femininity.” This eccentricity is felt with her inspirations from Dora Maar, whose surrealist photomontages challenge the idea of the modern woman. “Because the tailored suits are very covered up, they don’t really expose body parts. But then someone would wear the butt bag and people would end up gazing at the static body part of a person as if at art. It’s kind of odd.”

She explores the feelings of tension and unease of these biomorphic clothes and their relation to furniture by digging deep into the ‘uncanny valley’ concept coined by Masahiro Mori in the 1970’s. He described it as the feeling of eeriness that humanoid objects possess, which Grace shows through her body-shaped chainmail bags and a dress with an open back and a sheet of ‘hair’ thread that you can comb with a tiny affixed silver comb. “I care a lot about the materials I use, which is why I went crazy and bought all of them. I love using natural materials like wool and silk. For the accessories it’s the same – I use brass, silver and gold. I care a lot about proper clothing construction, like jackets with horsehair interfacing that give the piece longevity and timelessness so it can be an investment piece.”

Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Grace Ling, Design Development
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling

Designing between New York and Singapore mid-pandemic was a challenge. “When COVID first hit New York, I think I kind of knew that something’s going to happen. When everyone was stocking up on food, I was stocking up on fabrics and all my jewellery supplies. I brought all of my fabrics back with me to Singapore. I think I had two huge suitcases and one small suitcase. I probably bought one shirt to wear.”

In the end, she worked from her parents’ home in Singapore, soldering her jewellery and the metallurgy elements with a kit she bought on eBay. Her dad, a set designer by profession, helped her with designing the furniture for her collection. “My mom, a make-up artist, helped with the makeup for the shoot. I was lucky because my father could help me with the set design and furniture – he has all the machines and the business was closed because of COVID, so the studio was empty.”

Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Grace Ling, Research and Lookbook
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling

“A lot of students actually feel the need to make more outlandish designs to get media attention. I’m not going to lie – even I felt the pressure to do that because you want to be noticed. But I think there’s also a point to which it is not necessarily sustainable or authentic.”

Reflecting on her time on the design course at Parsons, she thinks the students focused too much on creating Instagram-friendly pieces. “A lot of students actually feel the need to make more outlandish designs to get media attention. I’m not going to lie – even I felt the pressure to do that because you want to be noticed. But I think there’s also a point to which it is not necessarily sustainable or authentic.”

Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling

“I feel ready for what’s ahead because I have my set of beliefs about fashion and I just stick to them.”

After finishing Parsons, Grace’s collection has been shortlisted for the first-ever global design graduate show hosted by i-D, Arts Thread and Gucci. While she is focusing on bringing her accessories to e-commerce, she hopes she can bring her suiting online soon too. “I feel ready for what’s ahead because I have my set of beliefs about fashion and I just stick to them. I’m refining my skills for 3D software because with computer-aided design, you can calculate the exact of materials you need so you can create with zero-waste. It’s about constantly adapting, constantly rethinking. I don’t think anyone is ever ready – you just have to keep working and keep striving.

Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Grace Ling, Lookbook
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling
Hybridising fashion and furniture through the work of Grace Ling