Joyce and i-D stage joint exhibition

Joyce andi-D magazine have teamed up for an exhibition that celebrates fashion's creative spirit, writesJing Zhang

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 2:53pm

Tricia Jones, co-owner of innovative British style magazine i-D, is full of enthusiasm for her new project on the mainland. The effortlessly beautiful 65-year-old sits on a sofa in Joyce's Paris boutique, in the arcades of the Palais Royal, dressed in a pinstripe grey two-piece suit and Converse trainers.

"I'm so fascinated by the interchange of ideas in China," she says. "All of you, as a one-child generation, are an amazingly articulate bunch of people. We met some people in their 20s who were so excited to exchange ideas."

Jones and her husband, Terry, who founded i-D in 1980, are preparing for the Soul i-D exhibition in Beijing, in partnership with Hong Kong retailer Joyce. Jones launched the Soul i-D project in 1998 with the aim of showcasing personal insights from creative thinkers. Over the years, she has amassed a huge collection of objects, photographs, essays, paintings and collages in response.

Jones asked contributors to respond to questions about family, value, support and creativity in any medium they wished.

"I wanted to do something about family next. I wanted it to be in a broader sense, as in what does family mean to you? I mean, Philip Treacy has his dog, or it could be best friends. It doesn't have to be biological," she says. "You could respond by writing, taking a picture, or by making something. Alber Elbaz sent me a beautiful musical box."

Jones has whittled down the collection to create the Soul i-D book, a document of the project which is not unlike the Smile i-D 20th anniversary book that her husband published.

For the China part of the project, the couple sought out local talent such as mainland fashion photographer Chen Man and Hong Kong's Wing Shya.

The magazine has featured a lot of Chinese faces in recent editions, notably an almost unrecognisably edgy Fan Bingbing on the September cover, and photographer Chen Man's ethnic minorities of China series.

"Until I saw Chen Man's photographs for the cover, I didn't understand the huge diversity of looks that you have within China," says Jones. "That was such a wonderful celebration. She is an amazing talent - and she's only 32. It's crackers. It's not just her photographic or creative vision. The soul of this girl is quite outstanding."

Shya has been contributing to i-D for some time, and was asked by Joyce to represent Hong Kong in Soul i-D.

The Beijing exhibition aims to offer a broader take on fashion to Chinese youth. Rather than just showing off designers and their work, it tries to address a wider cultural context.

Along with coveting Chanel handbags and Prada shoes, the mainland's younger generation is consuming a mix of their own culture and Western movements from eras past.

Post-punk, 1960s mod and Mary Quant, indie music as well as the music of Bob Dylan, The Beatles or The Cure have become relevant for a certain young, creative class. Fashion is part of it, but certainly not the only part.

It is this generation that interests Jones. "Interested, intelligent kids are growing up in China," she says. "I think that they'll look at and learn from mistakes we've made. I think that we have followed a very materialistic route."

"It's about looking at creativity in a broader platform, not just in a fashion context," says Andrew Keith, president of Lane Crawford and Joyce, of the exhibition. "I think it's about being able to give people the chance to explore creativity, without being preachy or dismissive. In a world where you can access products anywhere, we are trying to enrich that experience of fashion."

Both Jones and Keith reiterate the importance of linking fashion to the wider arts - "creating global communities of like-minded people", as Keith puts it.

"What this exhibition is about," he adds, "is connecting those dots between different fields, and celebrating vision, individuality and expression."

The exhibition is timely for the mainland, which is striving to find a balance between creativity and commerce. This was a concern when the couple started i-D magazine (Terry Jones had been an art director at Vogue) as a stapled-together fanzine in post-punk Britain.

Launched amid a sea of glam glossies, it became the first magazine to blend a mixture of street culture with high fashion and art. Terry Jones pioneered the "straight up" style of street fashion photography that is now copied by fashion bloggers under what Tricia calls "the law of unintended consequences".

" i-D has always been about creativity and open-mindedness. Open eyes, open minds, and diversity has been the message from the beginning," says Jones. "Terry was one of the first to put black models on the cover. In those days, people all thought that black models on the cover didn't sell - which sounds crazy now. We've never been the type of magazine to say this is in, or this is out."

Keith says he was profoundly influenced by i-D while growing up, and first discovered the magazine when his parents packed him off to a boarding school "in the frozen wastelands of northern Scotland".

Surrounded by big rugby playing bruisers, he recalls feeling out of place at the school. One night, when he was on bed-making duty in the dormitory, he found a copy of the magazine under one of the beds.

"It just spoke to me on so many different levels. Suddenly, I didn't feel so isolated. There were all these people out there who were expressing themselves and discovering their individuality. I still have that issue. It was the one with John Galliano's student collection."

The discovery would prove pivotal for Keith, and it led him to explore fashion and design. He struck up a friendship with Jones when they met at the Joyce 40th anniversary dinner in Paris last year, and he told her the story. She took him to meet her husband, and they formed the idea of Soul i-D Beijing.

Jones and Keith feel it's the responsibility of retailers and the media to encourage people to express themselves. More creative events like this are important, Jones says, for an industry that is much more commercial than when i-D was born.

"We've often said that fashion is the excuse for what we do, but we are also allowed to explore all sorts of other things," she says. "Music, social issues, all sorts - it's just a part of the responsibility of being in the media. I'd like to see it taken more seriously by all of us."

The Soul i-D exhibition opens today at Beijing's 798 Art Zone, and runs until Nov 7