Beini Wang, a student from China, participated in the Fashion Workshop in Summer 2017 after winning a Madame Grès-inspired drawing competition in Beijing. Below is an interview with Beini about her experience in the program, and the design choices she chose to pursue during her time at PAA.
How did you hear about PAA? What brought you here?
PAA held a Madame Grès-inspired drawing competition in Beijing, China. I decided to compete and I won first place, which gave me a scholarship to come to PAA for the summer.
What’s been your favorite aspect or experience of the program this month?
Working at the fashion shows, getting that experience working backstage. That was the most special aspect for me, because in other places you can’t really have that experience, or at least not as often. In China they’re always talking about haute couture, but what actually is haute couture? At PAA we could see it close-up, and actually understand what it is. Working backstage allows you to really understand what high fashion is and how it’s made.
Paris is known as the fashion capital of the world, it’s the top of the pyramid – so coming here to learn is an incredible opportunity.
What was your favorite project or piece you created?
I don’t have one favorite project, because all of the projects relate to one another. I tried to have a theme to tie all of my pieces together, with each of them stemming from that central theme: Parisian-inspired, my own sense of what Parisian is like. For example, I designed a hat specifically for Monet’s garden in Giverny, which is very French to me. I gave a lot of thought to the details of the hat, the color scheme and the way I decorated it. All of these details were associated with the garden. I wouldn’t be able to wear this hat in China; it wouldn’t suit the location. It matches Giverny.
What was the most influential or helpful thing you learned from the faculty?
In China I work as a fashion designer, so I’m rarely working hands-on in construction. I always thought construction was a very hard process, but coming here, all the teachers are so knowledgeable and they teach everything step by step. I was able to complete my own garments – not very fast, but smoothly. The construction process wasn’t as hard as I thought. Even when I encountered obstacles, it wasn’t mission impossible: I could overcome it. Because each teacher has different skills and different knowledge sets, even if you don’t know how to do something, there will be someone who can tell you how to do it. I was able to complete each project without too much stress!
What advice would you give to someone coming to do the program?
Don’t think of each project as an individual piece. Think of them as a cohesive collection. Something that I created for the feather workshop, for example, could also inspire my hat. Something I did in shibori dying could be used for hats. Everything ties together, everything becomes one cohesive project. Think of it as a whole collection. Designing will be much faster and more coherent because you think of it as one project, rather than individual pieces. Because the program is very short, it can be difficult if you think of your projects as individual items. I was able to complete garments fairly fast because I had a theme – Monet’s Garden – so I’d first complete the hat, then use nuns-felting to do the flower to decorate the hat, etc. – all tying back to my original theme. Time is very important, and if you have a goal, you can complete your work much faster.
What is your favorite place to go in Paris?
The museums – all of them. They’re extremely important to me. These are places where I can get information. I learned a lot about my own design process from seeing different sculptures and works of art.