Meet Meiyan, the newest designer to The R Collective and the creative brains behind some of our newest REVIVAL pieces, combining her love of soft feminine design details with her no nonsense approach to designing into ‘waste’. Here the woman, who you’ll just as easily find behind her design board as hiking Hong Kong trails with her rescue dog, shares why now’s the time to get serious on waste.
Q: Tell us about REVIVAL?
I’ve designed the newest pieces for The R Collective for the design-loving woman who wants to travel through her day with inner and outer confidence knowing that she’s really dressing from her heart outwards. The concept of revival is at the heart of my design process; the concept of giving new life to seemingly unwanted fabric waste whilst drawing on the reviving power of nature. Nature knows best and its inherent powerful reviving forces is what the fashion industry urgently needs. I love hiking in nature and this is really where so much of my energy and inspirations come from.
Q: What is your experience with rescuing waste?
I really don’t like the concept of ‘waste’. I prefer to think of it as a creative starting point that is calling for great ideas for a new life! I was given a range of waste materials to work with - gorgeous silks, cottons and viscous knits - as a starting point. From there, I interpreted these materials, which come with various constraints in terms of colours and amounts. Working with constraints is a challenge in design, and that’s really what sets sustainably-minded designers apart. Constraints don’t deter us - they drive and define us!
Designer Meiyan Chan enjoying hiking the Hong Kong trails
Q: How important is collaboration in the fashion industry today?
We absolutely need to collaborate and play to our strengths. We hear all the time that ‘collaboration is key to change’. REVIVAL proves this. My designs were only possible to interpret because of the collaboration with our supplier, Milagros. We created this collection throughout covid and whilst Hong Kong and Shenzhen, where our production is, is a stone’s throw away, it literally felt like another planet away as I couldn’t travel to the factory to work with Milagros’ expert seamstresses. On the creative side, I worked with a real inspiration of mine, Mia S. Lei, Founder of MIA SUKI, a luxury sportswear brand, and who guided me along various processes. That we pulled this small collection off with various lockdowns and working only online shows how vital collaboration is.
Q: How did taking part in the Redress Design Award help your career and how has your approach to sustainable design changed since?
I was part of the Redress Design Award 2019 cycle, where I presented a reconstructed collection using secondhand wedding dresses in what was a couture-like-collection. This type of bespoke sustainable design certainly has a place in the market, on a smaller scale that is deeply aspirational. That said, since I’ve been working with various larger fashion businesses, including The R Collective, I’ve come to understand that sustainable design needs to also think big picture - i.e. move from couture to the bigger collections. I want to challenge myself to continue to think big and aspirational - even though we all know this is hard!
Q: How can designers be a part of the change?
Design is both fantasy and function. As designers, we have a creative drive that flourishes in us, from when we’re hiking to ambling along busy streets. So we have this force that wants to fantasise about beauty. But when you combine this with a feeling of power and activism in fashion, you get the foundations for sustainable designers - those that want to bring beautiful change as a creative force in the world today. So designers - even though we feel small - must be part of the change!