With the fashion industry experiencing a pandemic-related dry spell, we’ve been reaching out to designers about how they’re coping. One of them is Yuhan Wang, a recent Central Saint Martins graduate who presented her first standalone show for fall 2020. A maker of light-as-air dresses, Wang believes there is strength in femininity—“women are born with the power of softness,” she told Vogue—and she can’t imagine a world without romance, even now. “It should be always there,” Wang said in a recent exchange. “Romance is the spring that enriches and develops our lives; without it we would be in a desert.”
Wang was born in China and is quarantining in London, where she says the mood ranges “from anxious to peaceful.” Drawing has become “an essential living habit” as she works from home, but her preferred mode of working is in 3D, moving quickly from sketch to draping. “It’s easier to touch and feel the mood and emotions that will create a more attractive story,” she explains. And Wang has spun some compelling—even prescient—narratives in her nascent career.
Consider her fall collection, which was inspired by Victorian mourning dress, for which guests received invitations resembling a 19th-century funeral notice. “I admire how women in the past had this kind of foresighted attitude about their own lives,” she explains. “The way they prepared for their own deaths is really modern and strong-minded. Life is always a circle. We always learn something from the past; the future learns from us. Maybe that’s how it is.”
Also on point was Wang’s spring 2020 collection presented with Fashion East; its title “Indoor Women” describes the circumscribed lives many of us are living in lockdown. More broadly, by playing with ways to conceal and reveal the body, Wang was also commenting on how feelings are expressed—or not. The collection was about “a mental combination of connection and isolation,” she says. “I didn’t expect that this would become a physical reality one year later.”
What will the world look like one year hence? Wang’s not sure, but seeing as she designed her first collection in three weeks, at the bidding of Fashion East’s Lulu Kennedy and out of boredom while waiting for her visa to come through, this designer seems well positioned to react. “Our manner of living will probably need a revolution,” she says. “[The industry will] have to rethink how people dress and what people will need.” She’s currently working on spring 2021, and though she isn’t sure how she might present a new collection, she remains sanguine: “We will figure it out later,” she states, adding, “We will probably have to rely on some new technology, like VR, to imitate 3D visual effects without gathering people [together] in a certain place. [That way] people can watch everything with 360-degree fields of view at home.”
Making connections is critical, especially now. Having lived in China, England, Europe, and the U.S., Wang is well positioned to notice cultural differences, and she believes that her work can help open people’s awareness to them in positive ways. “I do believe the culture of integration makes us a better world,” she says. “As the old saying goes in Chinese, ‘有容乃大,’ [which translates to something like] the sea accepts all rivers to have the capacity to be big. The message is to be tolerant to diversity. The ocean is vast because it refuses no rivers.”
Originally Appeared on Vogue