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I caught up with the choker designer Cui Xu on her inspirations on the new design before #NYFW2018. I discovered many of her personal lessons only to share with you.
Zhu: Who is the ideal Cuixu customer?
Cui Xu: It does not matter if the customer is a girl, a boy, young or old. I hope the customer is a devil-may-care person, who breaks through the social customs and constraints. He or she can find beauty in ordinary things. I used to love this video game called Life Quote (?), where my friend and I collecedt items and build houses. My friend loved building big houses, but I just drove a little boat in the limitless blue ocean for 20 minutes. Eventually, I found a temple in a desolate island. I was more than exhilarated! My friend was like, now you found this temple, so what? But I mean, for me, this is the whole point of the game.
Zhu: Will you focus on chokers, or will you look to expand?
Cui Xu: I would love to do more fashion accessories especially shoes and bags, but for now I want to focus on chokers. People can see my talents from the chokers. Doing chokers is testing water for me since they are smaller and easier to make.
Zhu: What is Cui Xu (not your brand Cuixu)’s1 year and 3-year plan?
Cui Xu: In 1 year, I want to diversify my designs and proliferate our products. I also look to meet more friends and networks, within the industry or outside of the industry. I welcome cross-industry co-operation. I don’t know what will happen yet, but I am definitely open for it. (Zhu: Cui Xu is a multi-talented designer. She has directed films on Cuixu’s mini-film on Moonscooper). In 3 years, I want to be more established in the industry and be known for my design. I want to balance the commercial elements and creativity. I don’t want my design to be too commercialised, as I want to preserve the spirit of my brand.
Zhu: You have co-operated with Calvin Luo, who excels at creating unisex garments, in NYFW Spring Season 2018. What is your take on gender fluidity?
Cui Xu: Gender neutralisation in fashion is a big trend. But I do fashion accessories, which are not defined by genders by nature. I won’t accentuate the neutralisation of my pieces. My products are fully accessible when my customers want them. When I was in high school, I was already quite fashionable. Sometimes female garments could not satisfy my needs for aesthetics, so I just hopped on the small size of male clothes. As long you are happy, everything happens organically.
Zhu: What do you think of the recent #metoo movement or Women’s March? How will you help the people who love your brand gain confidence?
Cui Xu: I am supportive. As a female designer, I am happy to see that the status of female at home and at work elevates through these movements. But I am not necessarily a feminist. I hope genders will not confine our takes in social roles. For example, although I am opening my business now, I won’t think of me fighting like a man. I work hard as a human being. To help my customers gain confidence, I want my brand to be a system. It is not like you wear a pair of shoes or carry a bag you will be more confident. It is the spirit of my brand that will make my customers resonate that power.
Zhu: You have also co-operated with another Chinese brand, Lanyu, in the last NYFW season. Lanyu has intentionally incorporated Chinese elements into their work. How about you?
Cui Xu: Lanyu comes from generations of Chinese silk family. It is understandable that Chinese elements form a big part of Lanyu’s DNA. I admire it and agree with it. However, I grew up with less salient national identity. I studied in Europe; now I am doing Cuixu in the US. Cuixu is a US-registered international brand, only that the designer is Chinese. What belongs to a nation also belongs to the world. For sure Chinese identiy have subtly inspired me. For example, the new piece Moonscooper was inspired by an old Chinese tale. In the tale, someone tried to steal the moon by scooping the shadow of the moon on a lake. In Moonscooper, I have a moon, and the symbol of luck, the Star of David. I want my customers to simply enjoy my design first, then want to know about the culture behind. They give my design they confidence vote. Because they do not like me as a result of the culture, they want to know more about the culture due to my design.
Zhu: Why did you choose to start from New York?
Cui Xu: Let me give you two anecdotes. The first one happened when I was still studying in Italy. I had a roommate, who is a very friendly guy. But when I asked him, where are you from? He raised his head, filled with prides, said, I am a New Yorker. That impression stuck in my head for a long time. I was wondering, what is the place that made my friend so full of confidence when he talked about the city? I could see lights elicited from his body. I pigeonholed this question for a while. After working in Shanghai for 2 years, I wanted my own brand. I saw a documentary that interviewed people on the street of New York. One scene swung to an old man in a café. The staff asked him what did he think of New York. He said, in New York you can pick up opportunities on the street. Even as he sat in a café for 45 minutes, someone would come up talk to him and give him chances. I am a big believeer in luck and opportunities. That is why I am here. It is funny that no friends or relatives have made that influence on me; I picked the route myself, and out of the influence from two strangers: my distant roommate in Italy and this old guy on the street of New York. Maybe it is destiny.
Zhu: What are your hobbies? Where you get your inspirations from?
Cui Xu: First, my work is my top hobby and my passion. Second, I enjoy Nature. I love going into the wildness. Third, I love fishing. My grandpa loves fishing and he takes me around when I was little. Gradually I got this habit with me. I also like playing basketball; I have signed up the basketball school team in high school. I have both quieter hobbies and active likes. As for inspirations, they come from life in various forms. Say if I talk with you, I capture something, I may ave a kaleidoscope of imaginations from there. I carry a notebook with me and capture those thoughts. Geniuses can be easily lost in the glimpse of eye, so it is very important to write them down. I do this ritually every night before sleep. And my favourite designer is Martin Margiela, the iconoclastic founder of Maison Margiela that shook the fashion world with his deformed garments.
Zhu: What will do if you were not a designer?
Cui Xu: Well designer is probably the best occupation I can have. I have done a few personality tests, and designing is my best match. If I were not a designer, I would have been a geologist. I really admire those Nat Geo professionals. Inside my bone, I am an adventurous person.
Zhu: Where did you get inspirations for your new bag?
Cui Xu: For example, the Moonscooper bag takes on the old tale of China with Star of David. So for me, the bag takes on the poetic parts onto a practical bag. To open the bag, you have to glide the handle to open the bag, like extending your arm to scoop the moon. In addition, it adds interactions with customers. Creating interactive products is very important to me. Interaction enlivens the products. Products are not just functionality.
Zhu: What’s the rest on the agenda for this incoming NYFW FS 18?
Cui Xu: For this season, we are still in the final testing phase of our new products. Many influencers have showed great interests for our new bags. We will continue to finish the short commercials on the new product, a fairy story about Moonscooper. I screen wrote for the video.