Spotlight is a regular series where we feature a prominent person in the creative scene. This month we speak with fashion designer Shuting Qiu.
Ever since she was a child, Hangzhou native Shuting Qiu had always wanted to become a fashion designer. Now, at the age of 24, she’s already realized her lifelong dream. Shortly after graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, Qiu established her eponymous womenswear label in 2017, and later made her runway debut at the New York Fashion Week last fall. Speaking from her current home in Antwerp, Qiu shares with us her humble beginnings and the philosophy behind her bold and colorful designs.
When did you start developing an interest in fashion?
Ever since I was young, I always knew I wanted to become a fashion designer. Drawing and reading fashion magazines have been my favorite hobbies for as long as I can remember. I’d always been very persistent about my dream. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t become a fashion designer. Fashion is a good medium in which I can express myself. Being able to turn my passion into a career is something that I’d always wanted to do.
“I’d always been very persistent about my dream. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t become a fashion designer”
How has your birthplace (Hangzhou) and your current home base (Antwerp) inspired your work? Why did you choose Antwerp?
Hangzhou is a really beautiful place and it definitely had an effect on developing my artistic fundamentals. Silk is one of my favorite materials and I use that a lot in my collections, I think that has to do with where I’m from as well.
As for Antwerp, I’ve always been a huge fan of the ‘Antwerp Six,’ so I wanted to study here. I’ve been living here for about four years. Since completing my studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, I’ve been learning more about European culture and the region’s modern art in order to find inspirations for my work. What’s more important is that living in Antwerp has made me a more confident person, which also allowed my design to have a better-defined personality and style.
There are many ethnic elements and bold colors in your design. Why is that? Are there any cultures that you find particularly inspirational? What are some of your favorite colors?
I use a lot of ethnic elements, bold colors and silhouettes and eccentric headpieces, combined with the use of silk, jacquard, hand embroidery and feminine cuts for a sense of elegance. I am particularly drawn to Indian culture. The headpieces from my previous collection, for instance, are inspired by the Kathakali dancers from southern India. I generally like bright, eye-catching and ‘happy’ colors that go well together, but I don't have a favorite.
Shuting Qiu SS19 collection. Image via Shuting QIu.
What was it like to take part in New York Fashion Week?
It was magical. I couldn’t really believe it when I first heard the news. After the show, I was quite happy with all the positive feedback, but at the same time, there’s also tremendous pressure that comes with it. Now, I need to think about how to make my next collection better than the last.
You’re one of the finalists for this year’s Business of Fashion China Prize. Can you tell me a little bit about your collection for the contest?
The concept of the AW19 collection is: “If I were not a designer, a writer would be my dream.” My way of expression has gradually changed from words to relying on visuals to deliver emotion. I worship Virginia Woolf; her persona is an inspiration, and I want to render her in my collection. Visual inspiration came from my trip to Mumbai this year: rich colors of India and the textures of beaded embroidery. Referencing the English style, I will combine masculine tartan fabrics with rich floral prints and cut to present a free and heroic, romantic and neurotic ‘writer.’
What’s your plan for the rest of 2019?
I’m finishing up the AW19 collection, and getting ready to shoot the campaign for it. I have a basic concept for the SS20 collection, so I need to do more research on it. I’m also thinking about setting up my own studio in China and transferring a portion of my work here.