Through his work, Samuel Guidong Yang creates a world of beautiful androgyny, with a strong focus on shape and form. Structured cuts juxtaposed against sculptural silhouettes; an attitude of cool with a classical undertone. We talk to the recent Central Saint Martin’s graduate about his style and brand.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Shenzhen, China, before moving to the UK in 2006. I started at CSM in 2009 and months ago I finished my MA Fashion womenswear course at CSM. As a designer, I am guided by an interest in the human form, which most likely developed from a background in the fine arts. My interest in fashion specifically is in how it allows contact or proximity to the living body that isn't as obvious in other artistic media.
How would you define the style of your brand?
The body in my work always has a sort of subjective being, while the piece of clothing is almost purely objective. The fabric is cold, it lacks the natural warmth of a body; but once it’s worn, the shape and the lines of the fabric start to conform to our body, producing a sort of equilibrium. It's an interaction that creates new and sometimes unexpected results, when compared to either the unclothed body or the bare garment. These ideas are always the fundamental thinking behind my designs, and also it gives me a more desirable way of making clothes.
What about your own personal style? What would you be seen wearing on an average day about town?
I am not very self-conscious of my own personal style. But I do tend to wear something comfortable and easy. I like oversized clothing rather than something that always outlines the shape of the body. On an average day I wear a cap, black clothes and trainers.
A lot of your pieces are white, or white with small accents of colour. What draws you to this minimalist palette?
That was my 2013 BA collection called About White. It was highly inspired by the white gymnastics look. I found it very beautiful to see how gymnastics embodied the aesthetics of classical sculpture, with its careful attention to the details of human form and motion. The fact that their outfits were all white really emphasized this connection, as though the gymnasts were a sort of living marble. A classical white statue merges formal beauty and its expressive power with purity and simplicity. There is something effortless, a certain rawness and freedom that I wanted to express through the garments. The sewing is all hidden and raw-finished, but still well constructed so as to give the feeling of statuesque seamlessness; and once the piece is worn it comes to life, like a modern Galatea.
In contrast to your BA collection, your MA collection's aesthetic is somewhat harsher with its predominant blacks and sharp lines. What inspired the collection and this noticeable evolution?
Tension means the state of being stretched tight, or mental, emotional strain. But what if they both appear at the same time? This collection is about the expression of tension that appears in a variety of forms both physical and mental. In contrast to my BA collection, I was still so driven by the obsession of creating shapes but this time, the mood was set on expressing various tones of black rather than the otherworldly white.
You’ve used quite unconventional materials in this collection, such as plastics and quilted fabrics. What drew you to these materials and textures?
It is about exploring the difference of mix media to create this multi-formed tension for this collection, such as rubber, plastic and PVC-coated fabrics, which emphasise tightness, oppressiveness, and wetness.
What do you like about designing womenswear in particular?
In past collections and projects, I have always liked to imagine this similar figure of a woman who is full of passion and energy, but lacking any means of expression or release. And there is an active conflict between her masculine and feminine sides. I think that explains why I like designing womenswear in particular. There is so much to explore in creating pieces around a woman’s figure.
For you, what are the components of a successful runway collection?
I am very interested in the interaction between the models and bodies wearing the designs and the spectator. Today, there is so much you can do other than just a runway show. Apart from that, how the movement would translate not only the beauty of the collection, but also its meaning, is essential. I am only at the beginning of my journey of exploration, and so there is still so much I need to do to achieve that.
You’ve had work experience with Alexander Wang and Giles Deacon. How were these experiences and what did you learn from them?
During my placement year for my BA, I interned at Alexander Wang for six months. By that time Wang was a very young company compared to others, but the label had already gained and achieved great success through marketing. The reason I decided to go to New York was ultimately my curiosity for the American fashion scene; also my desire to find out first hand how Alexander Wang’s company had achieved such fast growth in the past few years. My past work experience definitely helped me improve my own view of fashion and my understanding of how teamwork is so important in this environment. There is so much you need to consider if you have a company.
Who are your favourite designers? Would you say they have influenced your style as a designer?
When I first became involved in fashion, I was looking at works by designers like Yoji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, Alexander McQueen and Raf Simons, etc. Looking at what they had done in the past was very encouraging and inspiring. I would say they have all influenced me as a designer in different ways – for instance, the importance of a flowing fabric from Yoji’s design, and the very inspiring construction work in CDG.
Who would you most want to see wearing one of your pieces?
I think after my recent collection, I see the girl who has both masculine and feminine strength, and also a very deep appreciation of creativity in life.
Where do you see the name Samuel Guidong Yang in 10 years?
I hope it will still exist, although it is hard to imagine that. But in whatever way the name should exist, I hope it continues to have energy and keeps evolving.