Risk is an essential component for success. Indeed, the risk to do something different, to put oneself out there and show one’s passions to an audience can be a daunting endeavour. But without at least the attempt, one’s inner progress can stagnate. This is what led Claudia Li to launch her own eponymous ready-to-wear line in 2015, amid a dense marketplace that has myriad labels all vying for the hard-earned dollars of consumers.

“I wanted to build something of my own and challenge myself to start a business where I could still express myself as an artist,” she said about starting her brand. “And although it was one of the hardest decisions I ever made in my life, I’ve never looked back.”

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A post shared by CLAUDIA LI (@claudia_li_official) on Sep 4, 2018 at 7:03am PDT

Now, three years after taking that risk, Li, 30, is about to present her eighth show at New York Fashion Week. The large-scale industry event, which kicks off fashion month, is where careers can be made or broken based on the strength a collection. It’s a challenging environment any for brand, especially for budding ones like Claudia Li. But with the momentum she’s got going for her, this season could prove to be her most successful yet.

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Born in China and raised in Singapore and New Zealand, Li grew up immersed in the arts. Her father is an art dealer and her mother was an opera singer. And for a time, it looked as if she would follow down the former’s path. At 18, she went to school in Beijing to study painting and was later asked to join the family business, owning to the fact that going down that road would be much easier for her. “But that is not what I wanted for my own life,” she explained. “I’ve never settled for comfortable.”

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A post shared by CLAUDIA LI (@claudia_li_official) on Feb 21, 2018 at 12:35pm PST

She enrolled in Central Saint Martins in London to study fashion design, believing that she had found her calling, and continued her education at the Parsons School of Design in New York, where she received her MFA in fashion design. She would later join Brandon Maxwell, who was then Lady Gaga’s stylist, at the Haus of Gaga, before taking a position in the womenswear design team at JW Anderson.

Li was finally a part of the industry she loved, working for some of its biggest names, but there was something in her that wanted more. She wanted to open herself up and explore the possibility of creating her own company. So, with the experience that she accrued, and with the backing of her family, she set out to make her mark in New York.

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CLAUDIA LI | FALL WINTER 18 the Pleated Panel A-Line Dress

A post shared by CLAUDIA LI (@claudia_li_official) on Aug 30, 2018 at 6:37am PDT

Her first few collections played with proportions, amplifying the volume of the sleeves and hemlines of coats and separates in an avant-garde, origami-like manner. She also zoned in on texture – like gathering twine together to form a dress, fraying the fabric of a denim top and ruching the arms on a corduroy trench. Overtime, she refined her silhouettes, making them less pronounced, and added more lighthearted prints and colours. Through this seemingly commercialised evolution, signatures started to become apparent: pleated skits, whimsical prints, oversized toppers, billowy sleeves and exaggerated collars. “Our clients see the aesthetic value and attention to detail in our products,” she notes about what sets her brand apart from others.

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CLAUDIA LI | PRE-FALL 18 the Side Pleat V-Neck Dress and Pump

A post shared by CLAUDIA LI (@claudia_li_official) on Jul 27, 2018 at 7:53am PDT

There is a complexity to her designs that, at the same time, don’t appear overwrought. They are increasingly becoming more mature, and yet still have playfulness to them – a characteristic that perhaps attracted Bella Hadid, who has been photographed sporting her looks, and a number of international boutiques that carry her collections – they are sold at Maison Noir in Taiwan, Istetan in Tokyo and Raethete in Macau, among others. She’s also garnered a few honours along the way, including Fashion Group International’s Rising Stars award and a spot on Forbes’s 30 Under 30 Art & Style list.

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Despite these distinctions, there is still more to be done to really finesse her line and grow her business globally. She aims to introduce handbags, hire more designers and get into more directional doors. For her, attaining success in fashion, as with any field, has its hurdles, but she is more than ready to face them head-on.

“I learned about embracing risks – even if it’s scary,” she said. “I took a risk launching Claudia Li, but never have regretted it.”

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