Chengdu-born luxury womenswear designer Lulu Liu reveals why her clothes are not "too out there" and the role Tibet had in her London College of Fashion graduate collection.
Who do you design for? "I'm targeting successful women aged between 35 and 55. They enjoy fashion and have control over their personal and professional lives. They want to wear something that has a design twist while keeping the look professional; they like to move between work meetings and socialising with friends and still look appropriate. My clients don't want to wear 'too out there' pieces. They wouldn't feel comfortable - they would feel like it was 'too much attention', especially if they are the boss or CEO of the company where the image they are projecting is important. So not too loud."
Describe your design process. "I don't draw on paper so much - I prefer playing with fabric on a mannequin and visualising the reality of day-to-day movement. We move a lot, so I'm thinking, 'How will she look when she walks, when she sits down - when she leans on the table having a drink?' That's when the magic of fabric and silhouette comes into play. It's a marriage between the body and the garment.
"Sometimes clients say that while the clothes don't look that spectacular on the hanger, once they put them on they get a lot of compliments because the shapes, draping and fit are very flattering."
What experiences have shaped your fashion journey? "I grew up in Chengdu - traditional teahouses, temples and hotpot street food. Then, when I was 17, I went to Japan to study. I spent a lot of time in Kyoto, including the geisha district of Gion. I also studied animation film editing. The Chinese reds and blues always stay in my blood because that is in my DNA. Also, I'm very interested in Tibet. My graduate collection was inspired by Tibetan monks. It's a mix and match of experiences and cultures. I was honoured to have my student work shown at the V&A [Victoria & Albert Museum, in London]. Designing costumes for the Royal Ballet was also a great experience."
What's next? "This year I'm going to step back and think more about brand value. I've been doing this for five years and it's very important to rethink everything and ask: 'Why do I want a brand and how am I going to do it properly? We are switching to the digital side as well. It's an exciting process."