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Dooling Jiang

Dooling Jiang is a Beijing-based fashion designer. Originally from the south, she studied at Raffles Design Institute, Beijing before taking up a course at Central Saint Martins, London in 2008. Upon returning to China, Dooling set up conceptual fashion brand, Digest, and was invited by Ou Ning to take part in the 2011 Chengdu Biennale earlier this year. Her second Digest collection was released only a few days ago; I dropped by her space on Baiziwan Lu earlier to ask a few questions.

Tell us more about your work. What are you inspired by?
During my time at Central Saint Martins, we did a module about muses. At the time, my muse was the Snow Queen; for me, she embodied the idea of androgyny. I started to explore the combination of masculine and feminine and used different textiles to represent each, for example, utilising soft materials (feminine) with a more course material (masculine). This concept has now extended into more recent collections: I like mixing styles and my work usually features semi-fitted clothes with silhouettes that are quite boxy. Previous collections have focused on geometric shapes, such as squares and circles. Triangles are next.

My slogan “real is good, interesting is better” informs most of my work, whilst my designs are not market-orientated at all, which means that it’s okay if my collections are late. Each collection has its own visual expression. I guess I’m just developing my own design language.

Who is your target market?
My target market is the “fourth” gender: those that epitomise androgyny. They are people who remain young throughout. They have an attitude towards politics, but don’t try to change the system as long as it doesn’t affect their lives. They read the news and stay informed about social issues, but they are not cynical.

Tell us more about your participation in this year’s Chengdu Biennale.
I was given one month to put together my proposal. Interestingly, I was one of only two fashion designers taking part this year (the other was Zhang Da), probably because most local fashion designers focus on trends rather than concept. However, I feel that, like architects, designers have a responsibility to use their work to comment and reflect on the world around them – they need to project their own point of view. As a result, I decided to develop a collection to illustrate contemporary China.

The resulting works depict Chinese culture as a combination of “country” and “urban”. For industrial reasons, small Chinese towns and villages are slowly being integrated into cities, forming megacities. To represent this, I dipped a series of white clothes into blue ink to demonstrate the country taking over the urban - a process of cultural invasion.

What are you most proud of so far?
I’m proud of establishing my own design language, which I am still exploring. I am continuously drawing inspiration from reading - “digesting” - and transforming the things I learn into this system.

Where do you hope to see your brand in the future?
I want it to be more developed, and to focus on incorporating small details into simple pieces. The aim is to mature and to further establish my own design language.

Thanks to Lynn Zhang for interpreting.