Irene SJ Yu presented her London Fashion Week at Ice Tank, an anonymous event space in Covent Garden, in September. A stone’s throw away from official proceedings at the British Fashion Council’s hub 180 The Strand, Yu’s diverse tableau was an energetic afternoon pick-me-up.
A note on the designer: the Taiwanese designer studied at Central Saint Martins and launched her eponymous line after having graduated in 2015. Her background is in fine art before she made the leap to fashion. Her work isn’t so much about questioning is fashion art as it is about evaluating occasion dresses, easy assimilation and navigating the urban jungle.
‘Urban’ is an integral word. If one had to predict the intended customer for these clothes it would be twenty-something city slickers with a penchant for partying, served with a slathering of self-confidence. There are many brands operating in this sphere. The upcoming British Fashion Awards intends to celebrate this with an Urban Luxe Brand Award. As it stands, the current nominees are Supreme, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Off-White, Vetements and Fenty x Puma. Irene SJ Yu may be positioning herself accordingly, to an aim for a similar trajectory.
For Spring 2018 she stuck to her guns. Her modus operandi is “to contest the traditional notions of elegancy and beauty by creating an aesthetic of her own.” Contesting the thundering dance music emanating from the space, one thought of Rihanna—as often one does at fashion shows these days. Configured as Bad Girl Riri, these designs belong to that aesthetic, one which does tow the line between good taste and bad taste, womanliness and girlishness. It’s an age-old exploration in fashion—notably perfected by the inimitable Miuccia Prada—but the punchiness and saccharinity of recent design movements, with their affinity for girlhood in the Instagram generation, present it in an entirely new way. At this stage it has become trite, and Yu’s contribution to the conversation isn’t as valuable, in terms of propelling design movements, but its occasional garish spirit adds something.
One observes her garments bely her artistic background which is a tad disheartening. Truthfully, there wasn’t much evidence of her fine art beginnings in the show. If one looks at the aforementioned Urban Luxe Brand nominees one sees Virgil Abloh’s Off-White imprint staking a place on the list—Abloh’s practice is indebted to his training in civil engineering and architecture. One would like to see Yu suffuse her designs with an artful flair.