For her senior thesis collection, BFA fashion designer Penny Li found inspiration in the work of photographer Daidō Moriyama, known for his contrast of classical ideas and depiction of contemporary society in post-war Japan. Focusing on the division that money can cause in society after a traumatic event, the ability to dissect such a hard and sensitive topic respectfully is quite a talent.
Li wanted to create a collection that embodied this, and sought to highlight the struggles and differences between lower and upper class society. Having moved from Asia to America, it is something she relates to personally. Moving brought on a social shock, and living in a basement and struggling with finances herself means she fights with her own ideas of home, as well as new ideas of change.
She began drawing inspiration from Moriyama’s Tights and Lips, photos of women in voyeuristic and alluring poses and settings. They are images that exude luxury while giving an impression of untidiness. It brought on a feeling of the struggling lower class trying to reach a sensual, high-class lifestyle, but with a lack of money and experience. Although the women feel they won’t succeed, they have to do the best with what they have.
It is this feeling that Li wanted to recreate. She crafted high-end and well made clothes that make a statement, whatever your status. Li pushes the boundaries of the fashion industry, with carefully placed drapery to create new ideas of fit and proportion. And, through her application of creativity, the eye is constantly wandering across her work, stumbling on small details that give her work individuality. To introduce a feeling of lightheartedness, like light at the end of the tunnel, Li uses only six colors in her collection, including black, navy blue, and an almost black hunter green, with accents of yellow, teal, and white.
Overall, Li’s offering pushes the boundaries of social class, blending what separates them together. Especially in today’s tense political climate, it’s a collection that allows for an interesting way to view this idea, bringing it into the light.
Words: Ryan Murphy, BFA Fashion Product Development