Following his debut runway show at the 2015 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin, William Fan has emerged as one of the most exciting new talents in the fashion world and was recently selected as this year’s winner of the prestigious Mercedes-Benz International Designer Exchange Program. Here the German designer talks to Kitty Harris about working for Alexander McQueen, fusing traditional Asian materials with contemporary design and the androgynous future of fashion.
LUX: How did you get into fashion design?
William Fan: I started to be interested in fashion at a very young age. The moment I could walk, I was always headed towards my mum and dad’s wardrobe. I loved styling. Then I started learning to sew and created my first wardrobe pieces when I was a teenager. After my high school degree, I wanted to perfect my art, so I went to the Netherlands to start my Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design.
LUX: What was it like working for Alexander McQueen’s couture house in London?
WF: It was a unique experience. During the time I was working there, Lee was still alive and I could observe his power in every single detail he created. I learned to be a perfectionist and to tell stories with my collections.
LUX: You merge Asian materials, like cashmere and silk, with tecnhopolysether and bast fibre creating your own Euro-Asian dynamic. How does your Asian heritage influence your designs? And can you explain your process of sourcing fabric?
WF: I travel to Hong Kong and China four times a year. I go to the local markets and get inspired by the huge offerings. You can find everything there. From standard cottons and silks to crazy 3D PVC materials. I love the clash and the play-fullness when combining different materials.
I’m proud to have Chinese origins. I like to show this in a very quiet way, by putting Asian elements into my work. I like to analyse Chinese costumes, Kung Fu uniforms and I love watching old Bruce Lee movies.
LUX: You were chosen as one of the designers by Mercedes-Benz’ International Designer Exchange Programme with your works debuting in Berlin in 2015. What did this achievement mean to you?
WF: I’m happy to show my work on an international platform. Mercedes Benz has been a big supporter since day one. They gave me my first runway show in Berlin in January 2015. I’m very thankful!
LUX: Your designs were used in the MB Collective video with M.I.A. at the start of 2017. How would you describe this experience?
WF: Exciting, surreal and happy. The moment I saw M.I.A. in a total WILLIAM FAN look it was truly smashing.
LUX: What do you enjoy most about your work?
WF: I love to create an emotion, image and world you can dip into. My collections always tell a story and I like to see my work as a movie. Every season there is another chapter, different scene or topic. But it always connects to the last one, which is really fun to play with. And of course I love to see my garments on random people on the streets. This is the most uplifting compliment.
LUX: You seem to be an international citizen moving between Germany, London, Hong Kong… how does travelling influence the way you design?
WF: Traveling makes my work more dynamic and diverse. I like to combine opposite energies.
LUX: What does the term “stylish” mean to you?
WF: I don’t like that term. It feels very old fashioned.
LUX: Your clothes are designed to be unisex. Do you think that this is a direction fashion is moving towards?
William Fan: I think so. Take the phenomenon of sneakers. It doesn’t matter if you are a kid or grandma. Everyone is sharing a similarly styled sneaker. I think it will be the future… also in terms of ready to wear. Don’t give any borders or stamps to your clothes. If they fit and look good, who cares about the branding for women or men. I like to describe my wardrobe as ageless, universal and timeless. It’s meant to be open for everyone who wants to explore WILLIAM FAN.
LUX: What’s next for your brand?
WF: I’m trying to build up a solid base in terms of strong season-less wardrobe pieces. Those items will be sold on my online shop, which will be launching soon and I hope to grow my business internationally.