“Resilient “ – In Conversation with Australian emerging Menswear Designer Vincent Li
In 2014, Vincent Li established an alternative Menswear Label in Melbourne. The designer has his agenda to break the rules established in Menswear, and provides a variety of different menswear products and services. As any emerging fashion label, there was a huge amount of hard work, the struggle and the tears often with very little rewards or recognition. To bring new ideas to any established market is always a challenge. Also, there were many more added difficulties when Vincent Li decided to start his label with a niche style in Melbourne.
Five years ago, it was a brave move when the designer, Vincent Li, switched his career to Fashion from the very different industry, IT. Vincent Li always has so much passion accompanied with his clear vision for designing Menswear since the beginning. “While I was still studying Fashion Design, I always asked myself why the fashion world needs another designer, like me. What is the special point about myself?” says Vincent. He dislikes the literal, always seeking the intellectual viewpoint that translates into silhouettes that emphasize the theme of each collection.
In this conversation, Vincent Li shares his experiences about starting his label, and also his personal views on Australian’s perspectives on Fashion.
Vincent said that he had learnt so much about the local Fashion industry, the market, and the consumers after living in Hong Kong over the past four years. After the designer undertook part-time study in the Melbourne School of Fashion, he continued to finish his course later in Hong Kong. In 2013, he also took his internship at the international brand, J.W. ANDERSON in London.
“Since I did not work in Fashion before I lived in Melbourne and also I studied Fashion Design mostly overseas, the first big challenge for me was to find out the right contacts and resources for my brand in Australia.” says Vincent, “As any new business, you learn new things every day, and sometimes the tasks may probably go beyond what you can manage. In the end, running a Fashion label is a 24 hour, 7 days job.”
Consumers rarely take much notice on how much work is actually involved in fashion and how much it costs for the products to reach the retail store, season by season.
The cycle of the Fashion industry in the 21st Century has been totally changed since High Street fashion chain stores, such as Zara, H&M, or Top Shop opened. Today, most fashion designers have to work on a terrible agenda with horrendous timelines. One successful show is never enough. It goes from haute couture, spring/summer and autumn/winter ready-to-wear, cruise, resort, capsule collection, and collaboration design to advertising campaigns, exhibitions, trade shows, interviews, and social media – it never ends.
“As an emerging fashion label, you will face the challenges such as lacking manpower, founding the company, and the resources to perform all these tasks, not to mention producing one collection after the other. The designer needs to be very passionate, be flexible with the many unexpected situations, and also needs to be open to accept the critics’ comments or negative feedback. However, Vincent says, “A good designer should be creative enough to adapt to new situations quickly and can still deliver his/her vision within the limited resources and time.”
“There were many things that I did not expect, such as some rules and regulations that applied to the fashion business, the costs of making certain things locally, and also the consumers’ lack of understanding on the pricing.” The designer found that the majority of consumers are confused with the pricing which has been strongly influenced by fast fashion chain stores.
“People don’t really know what actually happens behind the door, so it is very easy to compare the price from an emerging Australian fashion label with some bigger chain stores. Actually there is no comparison between them. They operate on a different scale, resources, and market segments. Also, running an Australian-made fashion brand is similar to operating any other type of business in Australia.” Says Vincent, “As a small business, the production size is smaller, which means the costs of manufacturing are much higher, especially for a made-in-Australia label. As an emerging fashion designer, it is important to target a particular niche market and establish a unique and distinguished style at the beginning. Those upcoming designers, who are the future of the Fashion industry, could bring new ideas and innovations, and help the industry move towards an exciting future. It means that the design development or manufacturing process will experience something non-conventional, which will also add to the costs of the business.”
Also, Australian consumers or buyers are a bit different here compared with places like Hong Kong. Shopping is not a major part of the lifestyle in Australia. Even though the designer received great feedback or a lot of praise for his innovative design, but it does not necessarily reflect on the subsequent commercial returns. Sometimes, a fashion label has to wait for 2 or 3 seasons until the consumers or its followers purchase the products. Also, it is unlikely agencies are willing to take on a new brand, because they need the guarantee on the sales commissions. Furthermore, in Australia rarely will investors walk into an upcoming designer’s studio, and say, “ I will look after the rent for you”, which may happen in Europe. Therefore, all designers should prepare for all these things before they decide to start their labels. It could take two and a half to five years to find success.
“Be Patient” and “Resilient” are the keywords.
“Am I happy with the situation? Or Do I agree with it?” Says Vincent, “ I think it will just kill the future talent and kill the creative industry in Australia. If you love the designers’ work or believe in their talents, they need the support from you. Therefore, the designers can focus on what they are best at.”
Australian consumers have much more exposure to global fashion brands recently, which also have a large impact on the local fashion business. The designer Vincent says, “It is actually an opportunity for us to focus on creativity, not only for Australian designers, Australian Fashion Business, but also for fashion education, and the industry platform that specifically supports fashion. ”
As a young fashion brand, it will experience the struggle, challenges, unexpected opportunities, or the excitement of a new adventure. Even sometimes, it may feel a bit lonely. However, many fashion designers, like Vincent Li, still devote everything from themselves to let us become inspired, and make our lives much more creative and fun.
As Vincent says, “The future of Fashion is about quality, individualism, and creativity.”
So, what will be the next collection from VINCENT LI?