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Becoming One

The experimentative Yan To's new collection hits bStore

Thinkaholic Yan To from a background in corporate advertisement and no experience with fashion, has come a long way with his sensuality-inspired collections. Selling at bStore, the designer has embraced art in a far-removed world of growing up in Glasgow with family in the sciences. His new collection entitled 'One' is a small line of simple and feminine silhouettes focusing on greys and neutrals.

Dazed Digital: What makes you stand out from other new designers?

Yan To: My problem is that when I try to identify an aspect that makes me stand out, I always find a reason I and I alone do not posses that quality on my own. Take for example fashion training; through circumstance I have received no formal training. A stand out quality yes, but as any fashion observer will note, there are now many untrained people, mostly celebrities, heading up a fashion line. I think that my stand out feature is probably the way I design. Most of the design process takes place in my head and only get put onto paper just before the piece is sampled. This of course, means that the design process can be very slow but it is the only way I know how. I think I think too much!

DD: Do you feel your more 'corporate' background is an advantage?
Yan To: I have spent my whole working life in the world of advertising sales and supply to regional media. I worked in regional newspapers advertising departments and latterly in a media agency so an involvement in sales management and business ownership does give you a different perspective. I find myself trying to understand the issues that are important to the retailer, PR, production and of course the purchaser; I treat each one as a customer and as such try to make sure that it is easy to work with me. This then plays a big part in my brand strategy, when I design a piece it is important that it looks good on a shop rail, it has a valid reason for being and it feels good to wear. I think that adds to the designs, and is an acknowlegement that it takes real partnerships at every level to succeed.

DD: What has held you back in designing?
Yan To: I come from a family who embraced the sciences, but when I was a small boy I used to love drawing and painting. Art was my favourite subject at school but when it came to a choice at GCSE level, I was told I was to choose sciences and discard art. I can remember the last picture I drew all those years ago... The funny thing was that I didn’t realise the loss until many years later. The need to fall in line with the family was not an option. Apart from that the only thing that has held me back is me.

DD: Where do you look for inspiration?
Yan To: I guess firstly by stylish women. I love the aura that surrounds them and the energy and attitude that they transfer to their clothes. I am drawn to sensuality and sexuality, both in look and feel. The contrast between a base instinct and a higher consciousness. I'm inspired by experimentation with fabrics and form, my collection shows the results of changing fabric through burning, cutting and painting. An ongoing project is weathering, which involves a piece of silk which has currently been hanging outside for four months. I'm interested to see how the effects of a year exposed to the British atmosphere affects a natural material. I am inspired by London, and by the really decent and kind people I have met such as Kirk Beattie and Matthew Murphy at bStore and designers Heidi Mottram and Catharina Eden. I am inspired by my family- my wife Sian and three children are my biggest supporters and critics. I am inspired that I have been given a chance to express myself.

DD: What is your new collection all about?
Yan To: It is my interpretation of some of the most sensual episodes I have witnessed in life and on screen. Each piece will reflect a precious frozen moment in time.

DD: Do you feel it is quite feminine?
Yan To: 'Feminine' can mean so many things. I like to present a look which I think of as being sensual with an element of risk.

DD: What's next?
Yan To: My priority is to find a maximum of two more stockists in the UK. I would love to sell in other markets too and am looking to form partnerships with successful fashion bloggers in those markets as I value their local knowledge and integrity. I will be exhibiting at On|Off in February 2010 so I am working towards that creating a new collection for Autumn Winter with of about 15 looks. Beyond that, I am happy not to speculate.