“Fashion schools must teach their students about environmental impact”
Interview with Yiqing Yin, patron of the second class at Paris Fashion School by PSL, on the challenges of educating a new generation that will be able to support change in the fashion industry.
Yiqing Yin meets students at Paris Fashion School on January 18, 2019 © photo: Béryl Libault de la Chevasnerie / EnsAD
PSL: You graduated from EnsAD, and you’ve worked with some prestigious fashion houses and brands while also creating Maison Yiqing Yin. It’s an inspiring journey. What have been the highlights for you?
I suddenly realized that clothes could have a function, that they could reflect a sensibility
Yqing Yin: The flashes of inspiration! When I was in my first year at EnsAD, I still didn’t have a clear idea of the fashion world, and I was inclined to think that it was mostly all glitz and glamor. But then I got a ticket for the preview of Yohji Yamamoto’s Juste des vêtements exhibition at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris. Attending this exhibition and having the privilege of talking to the designer really opened my eyes. I suddenly realized that clothes could have a function, that they could reflect an identity, a sensibility. This encounter focused my work and guided me toward haute couture. That’s not the whole story, though. I’ve also been blessed with some auspicious stars and have been able to seize some great opportunities.
PSL: It’s actually extremely rare to start out in haute couture...
YY: Yes, and it’s not a very sensible option! (Laughs) It requires so many resources, but as I embarked on this with a few friends, I wasn’t fully aware of that. With hindsight, I can see that we succeeded because we were a passionate bunch who enjoyed inventing new approaches to making clothes. At EnsAd, we had developed our creative talents without any traditional teaching in technical subjects. We didn’t fit into a mold, and that was a stroke of luck. Haute couture appealed to me and fascinated me because it reflects a much more personal, intimate and malleable form of expression and offers the privilege of being able break free of the rules.
PSL: You’ve agreed to be the patron for the second class at Paris Fashion School. Why have you decided to get involved with this program?
YY: It is a truly hybrid program, and I would really like to have taken it as a student. When else in life do we have the opportunity we have during our school years to explore our creative potential and undertake research without the need to produce a quantifiable result? For me, Paris Fashion School facilitates this exploration when it invites its students to engage with other fields (marketing, textiles, design) and to consider a diverse range of approaches (eco-design, smart textiles, etc.). It is in the wake of such encounters that creative ideas are born.
PSL: What essential knowledge does a fashion school have a duty to provide?
Fashion schools must teach their students about environmental impact
YY: Fashion has become a disposable industry that consumes with no regard for its ecosystem, and this is not a tenable way of doing things! It seems to me that today’s fashion schools must teach their students about environmental impact and encourage them to work together to seize new opportunities. At a time when catwalk shows are being streamed live on Instagram all over the world, it’s no longer about creating in isolation or thinking that one’s own scope for action is limited. I believe strongly in holding a collective debate about refreshing eco-friendly fashion, or rediscovering the cultivation of materials and production time and quality... Many of these subjects are taught at Paris Fashion School, aren’t they?
PSL: You sometimes contribute to works of art (sculpture, dance, etc.). Is this advice that you would share with Paris Fashion School students?
YY: Absolutely. For a designer, it’s very difficult to regenerate using only your own internal resources. It is essential to get out, to travel, to engage with the arts, to visit incubators, and so on.
I experienced this strong need to take myself out of the fashion environment, and I’ve been lucky to have been able to work, among others, with dancers at the Paris Opera or those performing in contemporary dance. Connecting with live performance introduced a soft structure to my clothing design. Dancers, whether male or female, express themselves through their bodies, and beyond all of the artistic constraints, these encounters really affected me and sparked my passion. We found ourselves as artists in the search for points of expression.
PSL: You will be assisting the work of students at Paris Fashion School. Do you have any particular expectations?
YY: I am curious to meet the students, who come from such different backgrounds. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they define themselves today, what their work is like, their creative process. After so many years, it’s hugely inspiring and exciting to have this opportunity to pass something on.
Paris Fashion School by PSL
Born out of close collaboration between three Université PSL institutions, EnsAD, MINES ParisTech and Paris-Dauphine, Paris Fashion School offers a brand new kind of multidisciplinary, international education, blending classes in style and fashion design (EnsAD) with an innovative technical approach to materials (MINES ParisTech) as well as marketing and an introduction to the ecosystem of the fashion and luxury industry (Paris-Dauphine).