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Daoyuan Ding, the 2019 ITS Award Winner, Explores Dreams and the Uncanny in “Migratory Vagueness”

by Xinyu Wang

The ITS (International Talent Support) Award, held in Trieste, Italy every year, is an important occasion to scout the freshest talents in fashion design. Past winners include Peter Pilotto and Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga and Vetements. Along with the ex-juror list is an impressive lineup that ranges from the late editor of Vogue Italia Franca Sozzani. This year, the Chinese designer Daoyuan Ding won the award of €15,000 with his collection Migratory Vagueness, which is largely inspired by surrealist works of David Lynch and explores the idea of the uncanny: that gray area between the familiar and the unfamiliar. 

Part of his award, Mr. Ding is set to present his collection at Fall 2020 Pitti Uomo come next January. Honeysuckle Magazine caught up with the young designer to talk more on his identity as an Asian designer, sustainability, and his second collection. 

HS: Hello Daoyuan. Congratulations on winning the 2019 ITS Award with your graduate collection. Why did you decide to compete in it? And how was the experience?

A: Thank you. Initially it was because of an email sent by my course leader to encourage me to attend [the] ITS contest. I thought it was a good opportunity to showcase my work to more people. The experience at ITS was fun; it was a valuable experience for me as a designer. 

HS: I was taken by your collection the minute I saw it. The houndstooth pattern was especially unique. I know you are set to present another collection this coming January. Will we be seeing more of this pattern-cutting method and fabric work in it?

A: Yes, I am going to extend my collection a bit to explore the transformative method of pattern cutting. My previous collection is about the transformation of objects such as the combination between the coat and suit, suit and bag, etc. Also, I explored a bit in my shoe design, which expressed the idea of mixing the finished and unfinished statuses of Chelsea boots. 

HS: While you said your inspirations came from continental and western artists and directors like Rene Magritte, Meredith Oppenheim, and David Lynch, the overall styling, palette, and cut of the clothing in the collection felt distinctly oriental to me. Was this Asian perspective something you were conscious in trying to bring about? 

A: I didn’t intend to bring oriental elements in the collection. The overall styling idea occasionally jumped into my head when I was visiting a vintage shop in West London, which was closely connected to a film by David Lynch. I do like the old Chinese identity of bamboo hat man which I found in the film called “Les fruits de la passion” (“Fruits of Passion”, 1981).

(Photo: Roger Dean)

HS: You are a Chinese designer competing in a global market. How do you think this identity will impact the future growth of your brand, both from an artistic and business perspective? 

A: I don’t put “Chinese designer” as my identity, but I think this background always implies where I come from and what I can use and know the best. I do think Chinese designers have a lot of potential to grow their brands really rapidly with all the support from the Chinese industry and market. 

(Photo: Anyi Ren)
(Photo: Anyi Ren)

HS: Has sustainability played a part in your collection? If so, how?

A: From the material side, I designed and developed the houndstooth jacquard fabric with natural fibers, which was partially recycled and environmentally friendly. As a designer, I always think of the products to be long lasting. This collection is my master’s graduate collection, but it [the products] were well considered and they were totally wearable instead of just showing pieces. 

(Photo: Anyi Ren)

HS: Now, on a lighter note. Who are some of the artists you look up to? What about fashion designers?

A: The artist Alicja Kwade and the philosopher Graham Harman. And I adore the thought-provoking designs of Helmut Lang.

HS: How would you describe you brand in three words for somebody who’s not familiar with it?

A: RE-, Vague, deja vu. 

Xinyu Wang is a fashion writer at Honeysuckle Magazine, and a rising senior at New York University majoring in Media and Communications as well as Spanish. 

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