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China Designers: Sensen Lii’s Brain Births Alien Couture

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China Designers is a biweekly series that showcases the wide spectrum of creativity in Chinese fashion design. From small designers to big brands, these names are changing the connotations of “Made in China,” one collection at a time. Write to us if you have a suggestion or submission.

What’s neon green, black, and ruffled all over, with oversized shoulder pads, Spandex, and a sequined mask reminiscent of a Mexican luchador?

Though it may sound like the set-up to a twisted joke, this is only a taste of what’s emerged from the unbridled mind of Chinese designer Sensen Lii, whose infant label Windowsen is already making waves for its wildly original, Lovecraftian vision of futuristic couture.

While other labels might envision the future as pristine, streamlined, and stripped of superfluous interfaces, Windowsen’s take is undoubtedly more retrofitted. The name is partially a nod to the Windows operating system — cutting edge at its creation in 1985, now decidedly less-than, but still beloved by nostalgic tech-native ‘90s kids who grew up clicking away on these computers. Similarly Windowsen takes a dual-facing look at past and future — conjuring the ethereal glamor of Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler circa 1995, but with searing colors, dysmorphic silhouettes, gender fluidity, and a decidedly “more is more” attitude fitting for 21st century statement-makers.

Windowsen’s bold visual language blends two of the designer’s seemingly irreconcilable passions from across gender lines: women’s haute couture and men’s functional sportswear. “It’s really simple,” he says. “Sports elements and haute couture are both things that I love very much, and not many people combine them.”

Founded only last year while the designer was still completing his Masters at Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, Windowsen made its “explosive” debut, as Vogue called it, at VFiles during New York Fashion Week SS19.

Looks from Windowsen SS19 on the VFiles runway

Since then his designs have graced the bodies of many of his (and our) idols: Lady Gaga, Rita Ora, Fan Bingbing, singer Rosalía, and Pose star MJ Rodriguez, to name a few.

The theatricality of the 29-year-old designer’s work is no coincidence. After graduating with a BA from Sichuan Conservatory of Music, he told Paper Magazine that he interned with a Chinese music troupe and became captivated with the costumes. The exaggerated outfits and colorful makeup of Leigh Bowery — the late Australian performance artist who influenced Boy George and Alexander McQueen — would also become a big influence on his work.

Over time Lii began to embrace the masters of horror, especially those working in film, as some of his non-fashion inspirations — citing Alien designer and artist H.R. Giger Guillermo del Toro, the Wachowski siblings, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula among them.

He stated in one Chinese-language interview that he admires monsters because he sees them as a “social phenomenon,” used to admonish someone that’s brave enough to be different. He adds:

“Monsters also reflect the inherent thoughts of society. At a certain age parents require you to marry and have children. The public defines this social rule, but why can’t the niche have rules? I materialized this message and attitude into a ‘monster,’ which then became one of my inspirations.”

But despite its at-times intimidating appearance, Lii believes you don’t need to be a monster — or “Mother Monster” — to wear Windowsen.

Lii tells RADII: “In my opinion, someone wearing Windowsen must be a person with unique personality and an open demeanor. It can be anyone. They may be confident or humble, but they do not follow the trend or care about how they look in other people’s eyes.”

Follow Windowsen on Instagram.

All images: courtesy Windowsen

Mayura Jain
    Mayura Jain is a Shanghai-based writer, editor, illustrator and designer originally from Los Angeles. Before joining RADII, she worked for lifestyle magazine City Weekend and Sixth Tone as editor and graphic designer. In her spare time she frequents art exhibitions, fosters cats, and chows on unhealthy vegetarian food.