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“It was a crowded street show in the heart of New York City, started from the same address that used to be the glitziest adult amusement park, Club USA. A waltz played as models started walking amid the audience. The looks were simple enough to merge into the crowds at the first glance. But then, as the girls walking or jumping trippingly around the audience, the pieces inflated gradually from everyday sizes to just giant weird shapes…”
This could be the opening passage of a Haruki Murakami novel, where a small crack in an overlooked wall in a back alley opens to a fantastical otherworld. It could be the description of how a little spark of magic arrives out of nowhere and transforms the banal experience of our everyday lives.
In fact, what we’re reading here is imaginary fashion show coverage written for feyfey Worldwide’s (stylized: feyfey WORLDWIDE) latest collection, penned by the designer herself, Yufei Liu.
In many ways, Liu’s unassuming clothes tell a similar story to what we might find in Murakami’s novels. Made with everyday fabrics like cotton jersey and cotton fleece, which are commonly used to make T-shirts and hoodies, Liu’s creations are meant to be inviting and comfortable. Intuitive and functional, they assimilate easily into any woman’s wardrobe.
But, in no way are they normal clothes.
With the push of a button, small fans embedded within the garments begin whirring, quickly inflating her boring fabrics into bizarre costumes. An oversized trench coat grows to become a large ‘Hello Kitty’ head, while a headscarf balloons into a ‘many-sided die.’
As a result, the women wearing Liu’s designs — who we previously ignored — grow bigger and bigger in packed subways, on crowded streets, taking up more space and demanding more of our attention. With Liu’s clothes, an imaginary occurrence right out of a fantasy novel is transplanted into our reality. (Or are we transplanted into her imagination?)
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During Liu’s investigation into the idea of taking up more space, her designs began with a simple thought: Why do women need to constantly change themselves, their behaviors and outfits, so that they can be treated seriously in society?
A heavy topic, no doubt, but Liu’s approach is to be “serious about being unserious” — the outcome of her clothes a satire of the status quo, the women she dresses unabashed about their silliness. This latest series, titled “Slowly But Surely Take Up Space,” consists of seven looks across three arcs: the Pirate, the Gambler, and the Redeemer. Each arc is inspired by and builds upon archetypes traditionally dominated by male characters, pushing the female body to eat into the mind space taken by men.
For Liu, the Pirate is a caricature of the unkempt domestic woman burdened by housework, while the Gambler is the working woman taking risks. The Redeemer parallels the factory worker, with the iconography of Hello Kitty both a childhood dream and a corporate product stitched together by invisible factory hands. While in reality, these identities represent various forms of female labor, in Liu’s creative collection, they become more fantastical, more noteworthy, more curious.
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When models wearing Liu’s clothes suddenly inflated their clothes on the busy streets of London, passersby acted in unsynchronized unison: a step back, two steps to the side, respectfully returning space to the fluffed-up women.
“I imagine that women will wear these clothes to work in the uninflated form, and on their way home from a tiring day of work, they’ll balloon themselves up, enjoying the expanded personal space and a moment of attention from everyone.”
Rightfully, in the ending remarks of Liu’s made-up show review, she lightheartedly imagines The New York Times calling her fashion show not a runway but “the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
Conceived in 2018, feyfey Worldwide follows the philosophy of “double negation,” as Liu calls it. Using unfashionable fabrics to make stereotypical clothes, Liu challenges herself to innovate within the rules of the expected. “If you create a new T-shirt just by using a different material, that’s quite an easy win. I want to make a T-shirt with normal material, but push the expectation of what a T-shirt can be,” Liu explains.
As a result of this philosophy, Liu’s designs are always quirky while maintaining a semblance of normality, making one unsure whether to take the wearer seriously or not. As with her latest collection, where she is “serious about being unserious,” that is often the point of it all.
“I don’t want to make a fashion brand. I see feyfey Worldwide as more of a product or goods brand,” Liu shares with RADII.
On the difference between a fashion brand versus a product or goods brand, Liu cited a timeless aspect of products that is often missing from fashion brands. For Liu, the excitement of a new collection should not render the old ones irrelevant or unfashionable. It’s not about creating new trends, but anticipating new creativity. And creativity should be timeless.
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For all the strangeness in feyfey Worldwide’s clothes, there is an even bigger dose of familiarity and wearability. They expose our inner desire to let loose, to laugh at ourselves, to wear the silliest thing in public and still be taken seriously. For now, we might only dare to be weird in front of a mirror in the privacy of our own homes, but let us welcome the day we can seamlessly hop from an office to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, perhaps with the help of an inflatable trench coat.
All images courtesy of Yufei Liu
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