Everyone has experienced heartbreak at the hands of a loved one. But where many can muster the courage to move on, for BFA fashion designer Ziyi Li, the heartbreak only continued.
It’s a feeling she traces back to her roots in China where, growing up, she would constantly hear how a woman must find an appropriate husband, get married, and start bearing children. It was prevalent in her society, and it always seemed unfulfilling; like a life led for others, where her identity would be erased. Yet, it also became a concept deeply embedded into her as a woman, and a constant reminder she might be missing out on something.
With that steady pressure building inside her, it was time for a breakthrough. Moving to San Francisco brought a colorful life of new experiences and challenges, pushing her to strengthen her grasp on life. Finally, she was in control, and it dawned on her the strength she carried within. This awareness of her self-worth lit a fire inside her that she did not want to ignore.
It was this fire that sparked Li’s thesis collection, which was created as a celebration of herself. Comprised of dresses and knitted pieces made of thick yarns, her collection showcases large silhouettes designed to take up space, with puffed sleeves and wide pants creating volume around the body. Li wants it to be loud, recognized and appreciated.
Inspired by Missy Elliott, lyrics from her song The Rain are traced on top of some of the garments, as a special homage to the rapper. One specific piece is a vintage wedding veil, which she utilized in contrast to a tuxedo, symbolizing love brought on by oneself. Her creative process started by finding simple pieces like a sports bra and then draping it on herself to get a feeling of how the garments hug the body. After she had figured out her methodology, she moved on to creating a silhouette and adding layers. Another key source of inspiration was streetwear, and she used its influence to rework different garments and drape them in ways that felt reinvented.
Li has not only shown her flexibility with technique, but that she has the ability to work with a wide range of garments. Whether it’s canvas, denim or wool, a balance of grey and black or various shades of nude, this collection is about being bold and comfortable.