When Daoyuan Ding landed in Trieste in July last year as a fashion finalist of ITS 2019 he won everyone over – both the jury and guests - with his menswear collection “Migratory Vagueness”. Playing with references going from the artwork and films by René Magritte, Man Ray, Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch, he received two awards, assigned both for his coherent aesthetics and for his theatrical, quite shocking presentation.
A graduate of the MA Menswear course at London College of Fashion, following studies at Donghua University in Shanghai and at IED in Milan, Daoyuan has just returned from Florence and Paris where he has received very positive feedback from buyers and press.
The “ITS Award powered by Allianz with Pitti Immagine Tutoring & Consulting”, besides a cash prize, granted him a much coveted booth presentation at January’s Pitti Uomo fair, a key hub for menswear insiders from the world over. In addition to that, the “Tomorrow Entrepreneurial Creativity Award” offered him the opportunity to showcase his collection to buyers at the Le Palais Showroom owned by Tomorrow Holdings in Paris. As a result, both prizes granted Daoyuan a kind of visibility that would have been unthinkable without ITS.
We had a chat with him recently about these two experiences and about what’s next for his eponymous brand.
You've been traveling quite a lot to study & work in fashion design - Shanghai, Milan, Tokyo, London - before landing in Trieste, Italy, to win the much coveted ITS Award, which granted you the opportunity to showcase at the latest PITTI Uomo, as well as the Tomorrow Entrepreneurial Creativity Award which allowed you to showcase at the Tomorrow Le Palais showroom in Paris. How do you feel each country has contributed in shaping you as a designer and where do you feel you belong, if you were asked to pick a place?
I always think integration is important both for my design or my life. Different cities gave me different experiences. Milan is the place that first inspired my passion and energy to become a designer. Tokyo taught me how and where to learn different types of garments throughout history. Compared to design, development is more important. Shanghai gave me a stronger sense of developing real good garments. However, London is really the place where I put everything I learnt together, to generate my system of expressing the arts through fashion. I would rather keep traveling around those cities or even more cities than pick one single place. Because I am always trying to find different experience and elements from different places to integrate as a whole. So keeping floating is good for me.
International events and opportunities to showcase to an international audience can radically change the development of a young brand like your eponymous line. What are you taking back with you from your participation at in Pitti Uomo and from showcasing at Le Palais in Paris?
WI truly appreciate the opportunities Pitti Immagine and Tomorrow gave me. They allowed a wider perspective from which to review my experience and they also encouraged me to move forward.
What I’ll never forget about Pitti Uomo is the chance I had to talk to so many different people to introduce my collection and myself. Buyers, press, designers, students, artists, fabrics experts… It was the first time I was representing myself with the collection on site. It wasn’t just the connections that were valuable, it was the opportunity to share my ideas and thoughts about my work.
And in Paris, it was unbelievable and surprising when world-class buyers were selecting my garments and confirming their orders at the Le Palais Tomorrow Showroom. It allowed me to understand that my collection is truly viable commercially. Feedback from buyers really boosted my confidence to continue the development of my design aesthetics, building a more mature approach for my brand.
What's next for Daoyuan Ding, are you going to continue your exploration into the "grey zone" of unfamiliar familiarity, or are you planning new explorations for your next project?
Yes, I will keep my concept for the next few seasons. The “grey zone” is rich and there is still a lot of space to explore more possibilities in my designs. Based on the feedback from Pitti and Tomorrow, I think I will still combine closely creativity and commercial viability together, pushing my brand forward.
Picture yourself speaking about your experience at the ITS Arcademy to an audience of teenagers who are passionate about design and about to decide what their next step will be after High School. What message would you like them to go back home with?
I’d tell them we all feel the fear of the unknown when we think about our future. The only way to overcome that fear is to be fulfilled by the present. We must know ourselves, know what we like, what we are passionate about and what we truly desire. This will build a spiritual excitement that will always lead you past the fear of the future.