Dazed collaborates with YKK to showcase and support new design talent for the sophomore edition of our New Breed project. As the largest manufacturer of fastenings in the world, YKK also sponsors the coveted ITS ACCESSORIES award. This platform for young designers challenges participants to incorporate the company’s zips, buttons and more in innovative ways, with one winner receiving the financial and industry-focused support to produce their collection.
After previously paying a visit to YKK brand ambassador and shoe maverick Kei Kagami, Dazed Digital headed to the London studios of competition finalists Percy Lau and Cat Potter to discuss their creative process, points of inspiration and how they are breathing new life into zips, snap buttons & co.
“In the very beginning, I wanted to make jewellery to make people happy. Now I want to make pieces that make people think,” says accessories and jewellery designer Percy Lau.
Her latest collection “Seeing is Believing?” is a range of clear resin eyewear that utilises eye-catching optical illusion techniques. Having focused on mathematics, physics and chemistry prior to beginning her university studies, the range provided the perfect excuse for Lau to reference her other professional passion. “I used loads of physics theory about refraction for that work. My educational background helps me a lot. Science, techniques and materials inspire me the most,” she says.
Spectacles are also the focus of her designs for the ITS ACCESSORIES project. “Eyewear is a symbol of your horizon so I love to design those kinds of pieces. With YKK being a zip product, I thought of it as something that can open and close a horizon,” the 24-year-old explains. In this instance, she incorporates the element into multifunctional sunglasses/spectacles/reading glasses hybrids. Once again her love of science glimmers through as Lau drills, saws, moulds and pierces her pieces with an almost mathematical precision.
Although she just graduated from Central Saint Martins this summer, the young designer has already won competitions like the Swarovski live project thanks to her otherworldly creations, ranging from kingfisher millinery sculptures to acrylic fingernail dentures to nose-shaped necklaces. Lau plans to set up her own studio post-graduation, but ultimately wants to “influence and inspire others, and change their mind about the jewellery and accessories industry”. Naturally this also entails not letting her creations be pigeonholed into any genre of aesthetics. “I don’t want to label myself in terms of style. Style cannot explain anything. It’s more about doing your own thing rather than putting something onto ourselves,” Lau states, soon adding: “In design, if it's a good concept, it doesn’t matter how it develops.”
When Cat Potter presented her graduate footwear collection in 2012, her masterfully crafted creations immediately caught the eye of footwear giant Jimmy Choo, who awarded her the MA Final Collection Award for Excellence. Fusing the ancient material wood with modern digital techniques, Potter’s architectural designs were conceived using CAD/CAM software, created around the 3D scan of a foot and then precisely carved using 3-axis milling machines. “I don’t see footwear as just a practical object. Even if it looks like a shoe and does everything that a shoe is meant to do, I still think that it should be able to stand in an environment by itself and bring something to that environment,” the Swiss native explains.
Having previously completely her studies in fine art and curation, Potter finally found her vocation after enrolling in a diploma course at London College of Fashion’s Cordwainer’s College. “I thought, well it’s year, might as well see how it goes. I immediately loved it, this mixture between sculpture and the craft of footwear. On my first day I knew this was exactly what I want to do,” she enthusiastically says.
An avid photographer in her spare time, the 27-year-old finds inspiration in themes including European folklore culture, furniture and Swedish architecture. For her latest project with YKK, she is working on vacuum-forming leather around wooden high heels, fastened up through the use of snap buttons. “Working with YKK has been really interesting. I went to their offices in London and they have so many fittings and fixtures that I found it hard to choose just one. It was quite challenging because I would never use zippers or poppers, but it made me think about my aesthetic in a different way,” the designer states.
Whether she is experimenting with new fastening techniques or digital software, one thing that always remains is Potter’s love for artisanal design, something which can be traced back to her childhood. “When I was younger I lived near a jewellery designer. There were these little boxes full of gold, brass, and other bits and pieces. I just remember going over the top of the table and staring at all of them,” she recounts. “It was a beautiful workshop. It’s that kind of life that I still want really - having a studio and being able to create what you want with really good materials.”