Fuelled by a conceptually driven approach to accessory creation, design duo Xiaoyu Zhang and Min Li have dreamt up an ethereal ‘body decoration lab’ - birthing projects that lay dreamy motifs in contrast with punchy metals. The result is designs embellished with fanciful references that unlock a portal to a world adorned with butterfly sculptures and miniature rabbits - and their avant-garde creative expansion shows no signs of slowing down.
Having already broadened their innovation to the development of artistically reimagined prosthetics, YVMIN have demonstrated the depths of their poetic imagery in the world of wearable art. Here, we talk to the brand about the cultural and conceptual elements of their design process, the blending of artistry through collaborating with Shushu/Tong, as well as the incorporation of surrealism into the art of body decoration.
Yvmin Metalmagazine 1.jpg
Let’s start with YVMIN’s roots – where did the name come from, and how did things begin for you?
YVMIN comes from the Chinese phonics yü and min - from the names of the brand’s founders, Xiaoyu Zhang and Min Li. We began by forming Studio Yümin to support the creation of our personal work and focus on some design projects, before moving on to establishing our brand.
What draws you to explore jewellery specifically as an art form?
We have always been interested in art forms that involve the body, such as clothing and jewellery, but we have selected jewellery as the core focus of our brand because it is less restricted by functionality demands. For instance, clothing often has requirements such as needing to keep the wearer warm, whereas with jewellery, the focus is primarily on symbolism and aesthetics - it’s simpler.
Your artistry has been described as being driven by concepts rather than materials - what inspired this approach to prioritising the vision embodied by a piece?
In China, most of the older generation consumers are very concerned about the material value of jewellery, and many brand’s jewellery is sold by weight (like jewellery made of silver or gold), regardless of its design. As a result, we were inspired to instead design from conceptual, cultural elements from the very beginning.
Yvmin Metalmagazine 4.jpg
Many YVMIN pieces cast a playful light, as seen in the collection Electricgirl, in which cherries, birthday cakes and pink crystal hearts are fashioned into striking wearables with a cute, eccentric edge. How do you decide where to draw references from when designing a piece?
All our inspiration comes from moments found in real life, moments that can reflect the relationship between jewellery and the wearer. For example, the birthday cake element you mentioned was included to emphasise the commemorative significance of jewellery, and the classic ripple necklace was inspired by the afterimages found in blurred photos.
What was the experience of collaborating with Shushu/Tong? How were you able to merge your artistry with that of the label?
The collaboration with Shushu/Tong has been wonderful. As a jewellery brand, it’s very difficult for us to partake in runway shows, and we have to think more about design compatibility when collaborating with fashion brands. This has provided a variety of different experiences, producing so many creative possibilities - for example, our own personal creations are not limited to the style of the brand. We also have many creations that cannot be put into our own brand because of the style and positioning. In collaborating with Shushu/Tong, we have been able to actualise them.
Can you tell us more about the process of designing custom accessories for prosthetics? How did the process of artistically reimagining prosthetic limbs evolve?
In the YVMIN creative process, we are constantly trying new materials and exploring various wearing methods, as seen in prior products, such as face jewellery shaped as glasses and face frames, through headbands. The prosthesis is a part of the body, and so it can be decorated as well.
When we saw Xiao Yang sharing her OOTD photos on social media with her strong personal style, we thought it would be a fantastic opportunity, so we contacted her through social media. When I met Xiao Yang for the first time in Chengdu, we discussed how few prosthetic styles are currently available, which was the starting point that inspired this project.
Strictly speaking, we did not make the prosthesis itself. After studying the structure of the prosthesis, we decided to only make the shell for the prosthesis, avoiding many of the problems that come with technicalities, whilst also also allowing us to provide Xiao Yang with multiple pieces that can be worn on different occasions. Essentially, we took our philosophy for designing jewellery and accessories and applied it to the sphere of prosthetics.
Yvmin Metalmagazine 16.jpg
Your Spring/Summer 2023 collection, Paradise, pays tribute to the year of the rabbit with dreamy visuals, juxtaposing delicate pearls and pastel pinks against nods to punk. What was the vision behind this collection? How do you use this contrast in your storytelling?
The earliest conceptualisation of the Paradise collection came from one of our offline exhibitions. We fashioned scenes containing garments on the jewellery itself, seen with necklaces inlaid with t-shirts and quilts, and earrings inlaid with veils. We used bears as symbolic representations of toys, which featured as pendants. We like to play with unexpected combinations in our visuals; for instance, all images for our FW23 collection feature real models, but with a surrealist edge, creating an effect reminiscent of computer graphics.
Who inspires you? Is there anyone in particular that you’d like to see in your pieces?
The relationship between the two of us is quite multi-layered: college classmates, lovers, work partners, husband and wife, and after the birth of our baby last year, we became parents, too. In the process of building the brand, we energise one another. We hope that when you see YVMIN, you can feel the temperature and vitality of the brand, which embody its personality.
You’ve already expanded into various accessory categories, broadening to body decoration and lifestyle pieces. What form would you like to work with next?
Yes, we are already trying larger pieces of jewellery, which are somewhat similar to hard clothing. We hope to show the brand style more completely in the future, through the creation of a complete model image - but as for the near future, the next category we’re most likely to expand to is bags.
What’s next for your brand? Where do you see yourself in the coming years?
We hope to continue to maintain our unique style and grow to become widely known and recognised, developing our jewellery brand in the same manner one would a fashion brand.
Yvmin Metalmagazine 8.jpg
Yvmin Metalmagazine 21.jpg
Yvmin Metalmagazine 10 2.jpg
Yvmin Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Yvmin Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Yvmin Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Yvmin Metalmagazine 15.jpg
Yvmin Metalmagazine 17.jpg
Yvmin Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Yvmin Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Yvmin Metalmagazine 14.jpg
Yvmin Metalmagazine 20.jpg