• Phoebe Gardner

Meet Di Du, the designer making tidal waves

Updated: Oct 17, 2019

"For me, I feel each collection, once I step in, I step in a river, every moment it's kind of changing, sometimes I don't know the destination and where it flows to." - Di Du (19 June 2019 first published on Hunger TV)

Recent Antwerp masters fashion graduate, Di Du, is the designer spearheading female empowerment within the industry. Channelling narratives of sexuality, political statements and equality in her collections, Di Du oozes girl power, and although her journey as a fully-fledged designer has just started, her womenswear brand is already established as a bright star beaming with potential.

Sip in the ocean, Di Du’s master collection, is inspired by artist Anna Uddenberg’s erotic machine-like sculptures, a Parisian strip club poster and her Chinese heritage. It is an exhilarating array of futuristic and modern garments, undeniably original, sip in the ocean highlights how for such a long time, emerging female-power orientated designers have been missing in high-fashion.

Alongside studying fashion, Du custom designed two garments in pop star princess Rosalia’s Aute Cuture. Items from sip in the ocean were also worn by Rico Nasty to Vogue’s pre-Met Gala party earlier in May.

Scroll down to read our exclusive interview with Di Du.

Hey Di, could you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?

My full name is Di Du, that sometimes confuses people because my name is so short haha. I’m from China, before coming to Antwerp I did a bachelor in fashion in Beijing. Then I worked for a bit at a Chinese designer brand called SANKUANZ, after that I came to Antwerp to study.

What inspired you to start studying fashion at Antwerp? (Congratulations on graduating also!)

I think it was Antwerp Six, I really looked up to the like god-like designers, especially Martin Margiela, but at that age, studying in Antwerp looked very unreachable to me. Barely many people knew how to get into this school. Until I finished my first bachelor there was a bit more information about the school, so I took a chance to come to the entrance exam.

How have you found studying fashion?

It’s fun, it’s hard, and very addictive. It’s like being on a roller coaster, it doesn’t go smoothly, but full of excitements and challenges.

What inspired sip in the ocean?

In the very beginning, it was the artist Anna Uddenberg’s work, her artwork suggests subtle sexuality to machine looking objects, it’s very beautiful to me, and also stripper club posters. I wanted to make some underground culture high-fashion-like. Using pastel colours was a different technique than previous colour habits. I want to show subtle power in this collection.

Take me through your creative process…

For me I feel each collection, once I step in, I step in a river, every moment it’s kind of changing, sometimes I don’t know the destination and where it flows to.

Until the moment I’m settled with some ideas, I start to do draping and fabric combination, then back to sketch, after the first 3 looks, I know better where I’m going forward.

I looove the stripper heels with the crystal dragons in sip in the ocean, what was the inspiration behind them?

As I said, inspiration of this collection was partly from a stripper club, it was actually a Chinese restaurant which I often go to in Paris, there’s a stripper club across the street. The poster on the wall is really attractive to me and then Chinese culture is where I am rooted, the dragon is probably the most stereotype sign of Chinese culture. I knew these two stereotype elements bump into each other would create some chemistry and push it to the limits of kitschy, in a fashion way.

In previous collections, you have incorporated narratives of feminine power and political messages in your work, are these aspects something you want to carry on in your clothes? Why did you use these?

Yes indeed. I think what I want to carry into is actually freedom. Last year was politically wise, this year is sexuality wise.

It’s also from my experience of growing in a comparatively conservative environment, then I came to study here, I feel opened up to a lot of different things, and I feel encouraged, so I guess that’s why I’m always trying to break the boundary. One side I’m in the past of me, the other side I’m the present me, fighting each other.

Are there any other narratives in your work?

Equal. Political equal and sexually equal. We don’t want to be treated differently.

How was creating a custom outfit for Rosalia?

It was an amazing assignment! First time working with an artist on video looks, I was really feeling free to do what I wanted, our aesthetics match each other, that makes things easier. I feel I could be as daring as I wanted to, to make something that I couldn’t do in school! And she is such an inspiring girl, (I was) very happy they chose me for that project.

On your Instagram and website there are lots of digital artworks with 3D scans of your work, do you see fashion becoming increasingly linked to AI?  

I think our life in (m)any aspects are more linked to AI, fashion is part of our life, it’s inevitable. I just really like to work with different/new things, technology can create more possibilities for fashion.

Would you use an VR influencer/AI model?

Yes, I’d love to.

Do you have any advice for current fashion students?

I think most important thing is to know what you want, not what the teacher wants, not what other people expect from you, but yourself. The process can be hard finding yourself, be true to yourself.

What do you see for the future of fashion?

Generations change really fast in fashion industry. It seems harder and harder to survive in this huge flow. I wish it could slow down a little, but I don’t think so.

What is the vision for DI DU now you have graduated?

I think I need to take deep look at myself, make a long-term plan like for 2 years. When I see so many people have started to know about my work and me, I actually do feel some pressure, but in this case, I want to achieve a better myself, it’s a good drive!

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