The dichotomy of gender is a familiar trope amongst fashions designers. From Jean Paul Gaultier’s provocative androgyny, to sinisterly sweet pastels at Prada; gender proves a wellspring. For womenswear designer Youjia Jin—who won menswear awards in her native China—this ground is no less fertile. Within her collections masculine tailoring informs feminine dress: a dinner jacket softened with sheer overlay, a suit finished with a gossamer bow; pieces that for all their imbued sense of gender discourse, don’t explore the sexuality of the human form, but form itself.

Layers of tulle and wool are built up as though the intricate parts of the human body. Formed in neutral palettes of city greys and paper white; the clean and abstract foundations for linear folds and pleats that ripple as muscles.
Tenets of masculine and feminine tailoring are pulled apart and re-stitched. Not to contradict, but to start anew. A collar, lapel and padded shoulder of a suit are pieced back together with the flowing parts of a dress or cape.

But there is no political, sexual undertones in these hybrid creations. The discussion of gender is as soft as the muted greys and cashmere collections themselves; the quiet rustle on a tulle trim suit.

Following her third season at London Fashion Week, we caught up with Youjia to talk unisex collections and storybook heroines.

Youjia Jin AW15

Youjia Jin AW15

Anna Sanders: What were your inspirations for the autumn / winter 15 collection?

Youjia Jin: Alice in wonderland is my favourite story, but I don’t like the Alice in sketch which has long brown curly hair and dresses like a lady, but the prototype was a girl with short hair and has adventure spirit. Therefore, I decided to use this as my reference and want to tell the story of Alice in my imagination.

Human anatomy has played an important role in previous collections, where you referred to pleats as ‘muscles’ of clothes, do you always build up your collections in anatomical layers?

I think it is necessary to start with human anatomy to study body structure as a designer. I don’t use anatomical layers in all my collection but I love pleats.

Anna Claire Sanders Youjia Jin AW15 1

Backstage at Youjia Jin AW15, Anna Claire Sanders

Anna Claire Sanders Youjia Jin AW15 2

Backstage at Youjia Jin AW15, Anna Claire Sanders

What outside interests do you have that influence your creative process?

I am keen on visiting museums and seeing exhibitions, and reading books, listening to music, traveling around also can open my mind and give me inspiration. Everything can give me ideas and help my creation.

Having studied and worked in both China and London, how would you say the fashion landscapes differ and is this reflected in your work?

In China, I learned so many technical skills, and in London I learned how to be creative, open my mind to learning and opportunities to talk and work with other disciplines.

Anna Claire Sanders Youjia Jin AW15 3

Backstage at Youjia Jin AW15, Anna Claire Sanders

Though you specialise in womenswear you were awarded a Top 10 menswear fashion designer award in China, are gender codes important within your work and how do you use them?

I studied menswear and I love to play around with men’s patterns and integrate into womenswear.

Would you consider designing menswear, or a unisex collection in future?

I am keen on doing menswear, if I have any chance to do that, I will try the best.

Anna Claire Sanders Youjia Jin AW15 4

Backstage at Youjia Jin AW15, Anna Claire Sanders

Anna Claire Sanders Youjia Jin AW15 5

Backstage at Youjia Jin AW15, Anna Claire Sanders

Where do you see yourself next year?

I’m sure I’ll still be in London, doing my collection and getting much closer to my dream.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?

Photographer, Artist, Architect.

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