Dream weaver: young Taiwanese fashion designer looks to hone 3D woven technique

Central St Martins graduate Jim Hu has created clothes strangely beautiful in shape, texture and colour; now he wants to apply to architecture the extraordinary technique used to make them

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 January, 2016, 3:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 January, 2016, 3:00pm

If first impressions count, Jim Chen-Hsiang Hu is already way ahead.

Tall, slim and striking in a stark black, beautifully cut, fitted garment, he wears his long hair pulled back into a ponytail when we meet in a cafe in North London.

Calm, thoughtful and slightly detached, he says he is pondering his next step after winning the prestigious L’Oreal Professional Designer of the Year award for the womenswear collection he presented in the final year of his Bachelor of Arts degree at Central Saint Martins in London.

He has decided not to go down the MA route but to “do my own stuff”, which means focusing on developing the creative potential of his extraordinary 3D woven technique, which he calls “Xi”.

The designs he creates with this method are highly unusual and strangely beautiful in their shape, texture and colour. He chose red because it reflects that vitality of life.

Hu had a stint as a freelance graphic designer and although he found this a frustrating time from a creative perspective, some of the influences of the discipline can be seen in his work. He took up graphic design after abandoning a fine art course in Taiwan. He found the course too restricting and says one of the aspects of Central St Martins he most appreciated was the scope for artistic expression.

A project at the end of his first year at Central St Martins caught his imagination and gave him the environment to create his 3D weaving technique.

“That was when I started to do something sculptural and to think about cause and effect.”

He admits that in his foundation year at Central St Martins he coasted for the first few months as he felt he already had a portfolio of work. However, that attitude changed abruptly when he lost his laptop with all his work during a house move. “That was one of the darkest moments in my life,” he said. It proved transformative; suddenly, he had to apply himself and start producing new work.

He likes fashion but has many other interests, and says that if he decides to study for a masters degree he will probably choose another subject. Meanwhile, he would like to develop new materials for his weaving technique that could, for example, be used in architecture. He has been approached by organisations and individuals who see his potential.

He has been invited to participate in the 2015-2016 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism Architecture (UABB), co-organised by Shenzhen and Hong Kong, which runs until February 28.

He plans to explore work opportunities in Hong Kong . He has set up a company, One More Dimension, but says with a laugh: “I don’t have the ability to run it. Right now I need to earn some money and apply for some funds to do research for my 3D weaving.”

“I want to do something that is beneficial to the world,” he adds.

His family, who he describes as conservative, “old-school” Chinese, wanted him to pursue a more conventional career path, advising him to “get a ‘proper’ job and live a stable life”. His father is a nuclear engineer; but his mother used to design for her own fashion label.

“There were fashion magazines on our coffee table at home but I was never really interested in reading them,” he recalled. “I do remember asking my mother to teach me pattern cutting as she was always doing this, but she told me ‘No – do your homework’.” Later, he taught himself pattern cutting.

His favourite designer is Issey Miyake: “He was experimental but also designed clothes that were functional and wearable.”

He feels there is a tendency for young Asian designers to produce designs in the Western mould and merely embellish them with elements from their own cultural traditions. He likes to go deep into what his culture means to him and express this in his own way without blindly following nationalistic ideas. Speaking of China and Taiwan he says: “We have a rich culture – let’s share it.”