If you are a fashionista, you most likely love magic and illusion. If you are a fashion designer I am sure you can easily find a job as a magician as well. For me the relation between fashion and magic is so obvious because just like magic, fashion makes the invisible visible, turning what is unseen, unappreciated, what is in the shadow come out as something stunning. Isn’t it amazing how fashion designers are able to transform an idea, a current political or social trend, an attitude into a piece of garment? Thinking about that and yet despite what is happening in fashion now, deeply in my heart I believe designers are artisans and they have an amazing gift. I just wonder how are they able to preserve their unique talent and genuine vision, their work ethic and passion to create amidst the celebrity status frenzy, the demands and constraints, the self-censoring of today’s mammoth global brands?
Lately I can’t get rid of the feeling that fashion has forgotten about the real woman on the street, the woman with influence in her own circle and city, the woman who’s personality shines through her cultural identity and who is changing the world by changing herself first. I wish I could feel much more the relation between fashion and exactly that kind of woman, instead of an industry idolizing celebrity culture and models living a life just for the sake of fame.
Today in Mums in Heels we want to meet you with a fashion designer who refuses to be part of fashion preexisting rules and framework. She wants to keep her unwavering approach to creation and the freedom of ideas unconstrained by the rules of fashion today simply because she wants to make clothes for the sake of women wearing them more than once. She wants to see women living their life in her clothes, not only showing off or pretending to be someone else. It seems that she is really interested in the woman on the street and this is what we find absolutely irresistible about her.
Ly-Ling started Maison Aéthérée 10 years ago, but her story in fashion began when she was 7 years old, helping at the fashion school her aunt opened in Germany. Ly-Ling felt an absolute fascination for the way a piece of garment can come to life from a simple idea. Li-Lying has always been fascinated by artisanal work and she doesn’t feel she is a fashion designer in the popular sense of the word: “Making a prototype is as interesting as designing a piece or make the patterns, because if you see the whole process and if you’re able to do everything yourself, you can make it better and you can see the problems much easier, as if you just make a unique step of a garment”, says Li-Lyng. For her creating with her hands feels natural and is part of her genes. Her father worked as a carpenter when he came to Switzerland. Her grandfather was a photographer and her grandma a wedding dressmaker. “My grand uncle was a suit maker and his son an inventor, so they all where good artisan and it felt natural for me to become an artisan too” says Ly-Ling.
After studying at fashion school in Paris and a short internship at David Szeto, Ly-Ling started her first fashion label with someone she knew from the fashion school and three machines on a billiard table in an old garage. “Nobody bought or wore the clothes we made at that time”, says Ly-Ling, “but we won several fashion contests and finally in 2008 we received a one-year support from a competition we won in Japan. It was great because our pieces were getting some attention and our brand was advertised plus we could get quality fabrics and we could do more clothes. We were in Isetan in Tokyo and we sold there for three weeks. We sold really well both in Japan and Singapore. Back in France we went to a fair and that’s where we found our agent or he found us. He brought Hugo Boss in NY in the 80s. He called and he asked us to represent us. In two season, thanks to him, I was in 17 stores in USA. He gave me a contact in Zurich and thanks to this agency I came to seven stores in Zurich. At some point he started telling me what I should do because it was well sold, but I wanted something else and thought certain pieces don’t sell so well because the store sellers didn’t understand how to sell it. I create clothes for women, not for the hanger and I don’t really think if they look good on a hanger. I felt disappointed because fashion stores care so much about statistics and for me fashion is so much more”, tells me Ly-Ling while we sit in her second floor creative studio in St. Gallen. At that time she was 29 and her fourth collection was met with great appraisal by her manager but the problem was that it couldn’t sold. People didn’t want to risk and invest into an avangardist designer who is not even in Vogue.
This is how Ly-Ling decided to come back home St. Gallen and keep making clothes at her own pace, following her own vision. Her constant inspiration are designers like Yoshi Yamamoto, Comme des Garcon (Rei Kawakubo), Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten and Helmut Lang. She admires Yves Saint Laurent, Madeleine Vionnet, Elsa Schiaparelli and of course the typical french maison like Chanel or Hermes, because they always have this special something, which shows, the French charm. At the same time Ly-Ling is also attracted by the philosophy of Vêtements. “I think, that most fashion brands, the fashion design itself become more and more boring, because the designers are switching around the fashion groups and everything becomes the same and its more about making money and marketing than the design itself”.
More about how is fashion relevant to what women want read in our interview with Swiss Designer and creative force behind Aéthérée, Ly-Ling for Mums in Heels next week.
Tsitaliya is a writer and fashion journalist for more than 20 years. She founded Mums in Heels 10 years ago and keeps growing and evolving together with her community or fashionable mums and responsible consumers. Fashion and Wellness are her most favourite topics to write about.