Central Saint Martins’ graduate Samuel Yang on why he’s ditching the London runways for the LA art scene
Breaking all the conventions of the usual fashion start-up, Central Saint Martins MA graduate Samuel Yang ditched the anticipated London runway show and took his practice on the road, leading him to the performance scene of Los Angeles where he will present his SS16 collection in collaboration with choreographer Milka Djordevich. The show will see his designs encased in slowly melting ice blocks, amongst other forms.
What has happened since you graduated in April?
Samuel Yang: Since I graduated I went straight on to develop a series of site-specific projects; I’d like to go to a city, stay for a week and a half, find a location and realise a collaborative project with local creatives, as a way of applying multiple medias to my practice, beyond fashion. It’s all about expressing a certain visual language while building up a community and meet people who I find interesting.
Samuel Yang: When I was interning at Alexander Wang in New York, I was really enjoying how different the vibe is from London. I wanted to set something up in America, and the only other option from New York was Los Angeles. Thinking about dance and performance art, there’s just so many different creative people and things going on here.
Can you tell me more about your next collection?
Samuel Yang: It’s sort of a continuation of my MA collection, continuing to explore rubber as a material and expressing tension on the body. For me, this material is so connected to Los Angeles – it’s such a body-conscious city, and everyone has such perfect bodies or want to form themselves after certain looks. Rubber does that. I started looking at jelly yarn and did some knitted pieces, but kept trying to keep it more easy-going, wearable, while emphasising the tightness that rubber gives on the body.
Why did you take an interest in working with performance artist Milka Djordjevich?
Samuel Yang: I got introduced to Milka when I was here in April, and we immediately realised how connected we were aesthetically. We share the same creative language even though we’re from different fields: she’s a performer focusing on the body, and my starting point with fashion has always been the body. It just happened that we look and survey our surrounding environment in the same way; very subtle and sensitive. I try to approach fashion from a different point of view, more like an art form. While I was making the collection, she was rehearsing in LA, and we would have Skype meetings every week.
You’ve taken a very interesting strategy to launch your brand. Why did you choose to take this approach to present your collection rather than the conventional runway format in the city where you’re based?
Samuel Yang: It wasn’t really about rejecting the runway – and setting up like this is can also be one kind of marketing approach. But for me, that’s not the biggest point. It’s more of a strategy for me to meet, communicate and learn from a lot of people. Central Saint Martins was such an amazing environment with so many different media being explored, from graphics and product design to performance and fine art. All of my friends were interested in different fields. It’s that atmosphere that I want to continue after graduation – I want to be associated with many people who are in different areas, not just fashion. Everything we’re doing is just expresses the language of my brand in different way.
“I don’t know if I deserve to be called an artist yet, but anything takes time to build up” – Samuel Yang
But is it still important to you to maintain this idea of having a brand – selling, getting buyers etc. - or do you consider yourself more as an artist?
Samuel Yang: No, I’m not calling myself an artist because I don’t feel that I’m there yet. I’m still a designer, just collecting different things and elements, welcoming them and make them happen. I don’t know if I deserve to be called an artist yet, but anything takes time to build up. Soon, I am launching my e-commerce site. I would like to sell small amount of products and clothing on my own website so people can purchase it straight from me – I’ll be making them in my studio and send it to people who are interested. I want to do a small amount and start slowly.
So no buyers?
Samuel Yang: No buyers! Well, I say no now, but it’s also because I don’t understand much of that system, to be honest! I’m not against the fashion system, but ideally, I would like to shorten the communication between the designer and the customer. I want people to communicate straight away with me.
What’s the next stop for you and your brand?
Samuel Yang: I have a vague idea now, but I’m waiting for that to lock down. We’ve talked about Iceland. I want to explore another city. The next project could be shorter, just a few days, just go somewhere, shoot and present and do some shootings and presentations – a small thing.
Text: Jeppe Ugelvig