You can almost hear the crashing of the waves when you look at Renli Su’s romantic and organic garments. Her appreciation of nature and exploration into the idea of time and memory has resulted in a unique style of contemporary garments that are heavily influenced by history. They stand out like rocks in the sea, in an era where everything has to be new, modern and fast.
You are originally from Fujian, China. What are some inherently Chinese qualities of yours that come back into your design?
I don’t really think of my qualities as Chinese. I am surrounded by such a diverse range of people that nationalities seem less significant.
You left China and moved to London, what triggered this change? And how do you feel in the British capital?
I was given the option to study my MA abroad. From there, I could choose between the options of New York, Paris and London. London was the most exciting to me because I love English culture and history. After living here for eight years, I feel quite at home.
I can imagine this change was quite a cultural shock, what are some of the biggest differences you notice, particularly as a creative?
My university was very international. Studying with students from all over the world was a good bridge to understand each other creatively and culturally. Working in a creative field brings the luxury of being surrounded by open-minded and curious and wonderfully unique people, so I feel differences aren’t dividing.
Could you please describe your brand as if you were describing a person?
They’d be a romantic at heart, a bit dreamy and imaginative, a good listener and gentle.
You are inspired by the past. Is there any specific era or place that particularly sparks your interest?
I’ve always loved the Victorian Era in England and it’s a big inspiration for my design work. There are a lot of objects from this period that are extremely intricate and have the most incredible details.
Is it difficult to balance your inspiration from the past with contemporary fashion design?
Not at all! I think maybe because I have grown up in China, I have quite a light-hearted relationship to Western history, and find it easy to draw inspiration from it without getting stuck in the past.
Your designs embody both a dramatic femininity and a comfortable modesty, which is an unexpected combination yet one you seem to work very well. Do you strive for this or is it more of a subconscious process?
I suppose I strive for it. I want to create beautiful, delicate things, make something heartfelt. Exploring feminine energy is a big part of this, spiritually as well as in shapes and textures. At the same time, I want my clothing to be easy and comfortable to wear, as I believe that we can be truly ourselves when we are relaxed.
You are based in the middle of a busy city, yet the garments you design are very much orientated to nature. Do your urban surroundings ever pose a challenge to your organic designs?
I try to find a balance between a fast modern life, which is exciting to me in many ways, and the peace found in nature. London is a good place to explore both.
When looking at your garments, I can see the fabric plays a big role. Which materials are your favourite to work with and why?
I love working with fabrics the feel good to touch and have something special about them. For example, I have used fabrics with metallic fibres, which add a slight sheen to the fabric's surface and also result in a slightly crunchy texture.
The ocean has been a reoccurring theme in your designs. What is it about the ocean that keeps catching your interest?
I grew up by the seaside so closeness to water feels just natural to my being. I find many similarities between the properties of water and my design philosophy, from the fluid lines, gentle embrace of water to the depth and power of the oceans.
More and more people claim that sustainability should no longer be seen as a good asset of a brand, but rather as a given. What is your view on this?
I strongly believe in the importance of sustainability. There are so many new garments produced at such a fast pace, I think it’s important to look at the bigger picture of how this affects our world, although it does take a lot of compromises regarding the production process.
When it comes to the environmental crisis, what is the responsibility of fashion designers according to you?
I think that fashion designers are responsible for the items we produce, same as in any other industry I suppose. We don’t have the luxury to ignore our environmental impact any longer. I think the fashion industry is adapting to the big and important changes the consumer culture is going through.
You are probably busy working on your new collection, is there anything particular that you are looking forward to?
Yes! This season we will play a lot more with prints and colours, I am really excited to see how our ideas take shape.