Inspired By …


November 18 – December 3, 2008

An Exhibit of Apparel Designs by Ling Zhang
Masters Candidate in Family and Consumer Science, Iowa State University

I have been studying fashion design for 6 years. To me, being a good designer means not only sensitivity to fashion trends, but also creativity with fabric, color and structures; not only mastering fashion illustrations but also being familiar with the production procedure. When connected to a company, a designer needs to be able to develop designs for the market while improving them with better patternmaking and personal ideas. A designer is responsible for combining the art of fashion and a company’s culture to produce garments for consumers.

At the mean time, fashion design is not isolated. It has connections with art and society. So a good designer needs to have good taste and an awareness of a variety of subjects, such as fine art, music, sculpture, architecture and different cultures. Through the study of distinguishable elements, a designer gets more exciting inspirations and creates acceptable products for different groups of people. During two years of graduate study, I focused on how to enrich my designs with arts and cultures.

The inspirations for my designs come from the collision of different arts and cultures. While experimenting with different visual elements, I also try to bring unexpected elements into my designs. Many designs combine fine art and music. For example, Water Lilies was inspired by a series of oil paintings – Water-Lilies – by Claude Monet. The days on my past also shares the title with my favorite song, and includes inspirations from my childhood.

On the other hand, I also focus on modifications of fabrics. By applying different techniques such as pulled yarn work, embroidery appliqués or inlaid pieces, I develop and elaborate on the complexity of the fabrics which brings the design to a new level, providing better visual explanation of my inspiration. In some cases the fabric modification also enhances the drape or movement of the design. In Fibonacci for Fashion I chose white burlap for the dress. While this would hold the structures of the dress, it is also an unexpected choice viewed as in opposition to most elegant dress fabrics. The vertical and horizontal yarns were pulled out in a planned progression with some removed at folds to facilitate bending of the fabrics. This technique also lightened the weight of the burlap fabric and further emphasized the structures and proportions of the dress. The final result of the pulled yarn work was to create additional surface interest.

My Chinese heritage also influences many elements into my designs. Yin Yang, the facial make-up seen in Beijing opera, Chinese painting and Chinese ethnic groups’ accessories and dresses all appear as influences, although the actual silhouettes of the designs are primarily western. The intention is meant to combine ancient culture with modern design and to bring understanding to this mystical society. For example, my initial inspiration and the source of the printed images for Blooming Colors was my father’s traditional Chinese paintings that is “xie yi hua niao”, which means freehand style of flowers and birds. Chinese painting is one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world. In addition, I try to express the similarity among different cultures and arts in the hope of creating works of unity. You can see these in Beijing Opera and Black and White.

For me, the best thing about fashion is that it is an opportunity to express my creativity in a variety of form. Fashion design can be magical. It can transform a plain fabric into one of great beauty. Fashion design is like a miracle, it’s a fairy touch to Cinderella.

-Ling Zhang, Designer