Designer Gloria Yu tilts her head and smiles warmly. A fin of dark mesh is perched on top of her black hair. It’s called the “Nemo,” and it’s the Hong Kong native’s most beloved headpiece, a crown. Despite having a name inspired by a kidnapped cartoon fish, nothing about it makes the jet-setting Yu look lost. On the contrary, it gives her a subtle don’t-mess-with-me vibe.

“At first I was worried when I was walking windy streets,” Yu said, pointing at the piece. “But it has mesh, so it doesn’t work as a sail.” This toss up between aesthetic and logic is the epitome of Gloria Yu. Her design aesthetic, which she describes as romantic with an extraterrestrial edge, is at once surreal and functional. And when it comes to business, she’s a realist. “Learn business,” she says. “To keep doing what you love doing you need to learn to sustain yourself.”

I sat down with Yu to talk not only fashion, but the business behind the design.
To connect with Gloria Yu head over to her official website http://www.yunotme.com/

 Photo courtesy of Gloria Yu

Photo courtesy of Lane Crawford

I noticed a big difference between your ready-to-wear pieces and some of your more sculpted pieces. What drives each line?
The huge headpieces are under the line Gloria Yu and the ready-to-wear are under YuNotMe.

The Gloria Yu headpieces are my creativity running wild. YuNotMe is important as well because I love seeing people wearing my stuff in real life, not just on special occasions. I think designing a more toned-down line but still having my aesthetic in it is very liberating. Also, on a practical side, YuNotMe is a scalable business. It supports my other, more creative endeavors. I have a small-scale factory that produces my orders. But right now, I’m basically a one-woman team and, both practically and spiritually, both lines are really important to me.

Photo compliments of Gloria Yu

Photo courtesy of Gloria Yu

You had internships with Alexander Wang and have held journalism positions as well. How did working with those people and in those fields help you develop as a designer?
I started out really young with magazine internships and assisting stylists. Designing is about creating every small detail of your fashion presentation—from the picture for you campaign to your look book. It’s not about a single piece—it’s about everything surrounding it. That editorial experience helped me understand that.

With Alexander Wang I learned a lot about the process, everything from production to testing different finishes. I learned about how a product came to be.

Photo courtesy of Gloria Yu

The “Nemo.” Photo courtesy of Gloria Yu

So you learned not just fashion, but the business of fashion?
Yeah, I think [business] is really important to learn. At Parsons (Yu graduated Parsons The New School for Design in 2013) and a lot of design schools, they only teach you how to design. How to make a brilliant dress. They rarely teach you about money. If you’re talented, at first you’ll get sponsorship, but eventually sponsorship runs out.

Business is important—not even to profit, but merely to sustain myself and what I love doing.

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Photo courtesy of Lane Crawford

So why headpieces? What do you love about doing them?
Headpieces are a center point between sculpture and fashion. You can make it really artistic, but it’s still designed to wear on a head. So that’s a very comfortable spot for me to work.

Tell me about the first headpiece you created.
It was for a 3D class, freshman year of college. The headpiece was made of stuffed surgical gloves in different hand signs. We had to make a plaster bust and stand as well. I was doing things very last minute, and I didn’t make the wooden stand in time. So I had to go to CVS and find a toilet plunger and put my headpiece and bust on top of that. It worked perfectly. I still do things a bit last minute, but I used to be the queen of that.

Photo compliments of Gloria Yu

Photo courtesy of Gloria Yu

Do you work best on deadline?
I think I do. Even though I work ahead of time, I still work to last minute. But now it’s less frantic. The night before my New York launch, three weeks ago at Hotoveli, I was asleep by 11 p.m. I think that’s something to brag about.

So your first headpiece was surgical gloves and a plunger. What are your favorite materials to create with now?
I’m really open. I use a lot of ready-made goods, but I deconstruct them. I also use a lot of organic material—branches and feathers. I use a variety of materials. I really can’t pick.

Photo courtesy of Gloria Yu

Photo courtesy of Gloria Yu

You split your time equally between New York and Hong Kong—how does each city dictate your designs?
Creatively New York is more inspiring. I love the energy of people there. It’s really easy to get creative. It’s like, You want to do a photo shoot? Yeah, let’s do it!

Hong Kong is known more for its financial center. So it’s good for business. The creative scene is growing, but there’s less government support. In the U.S. there’s lots of funding and sponsorships [for the arts]—there’s nothing like that here. Since the States have more of that it attracts more creative people, and that, in turn, makes it more inspiring for me.

Photo courtesy of Gloria Yu

Photo courtesy of Gloria Yu

I also noticed a lot of your work is inspired by people. What kind of people, specifically, inspire your work?
People who don’t give up. People who could be insecure—flawed, but constantly try to be better. I’m inspired by the psychology of people.

Photo courtesy of Gloria Yu

Photo courtesy of Gloria Yu

Crowns are historically signs of power. How do your pieces inspire the women who wear them?
It’s the first thing people will see when you walk into a room. It gives you confidence. It enhances your character. And I make an effort to make my ready-to-wear pieces comfortable to wear, so it doesn’t overpower you. It simply brings out who you are.

What pieces are you working on now?

I have a presentation at New York Fashion Week in February. So I’m working on my fall 2015 collection.

To connect with Gloria Yu head over to her official website http://www.yunotme.com/
Or browse her YuNotMe line at Lane Crawford http://www.lanecrawford.com/landing/featureArticle.jsp?article=45400006&p=shop

 

All images courtesy of Headpiece Designer Gloria Yu

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