Why did you choose to study fashion design at Dalian Polytechnic University (DPU)?
Fashion is global and you need to have access to international things. You cannot just take a Chinese point of view. Studying at DPU under the Winchester School of Art (WSA) collaborative arts programme gave me exposure to a different culture, which was important. Not many of our teachers were Chinese, which was also good, and as the lectures were in English, it gave me the chance to improve those skills as well.
How did the collaboration between DPU and WSA work in practice?
I studied in Dalian for the duration of my four-year course. Those of us who had a sufficiently high ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) score at the end of year two were put into a group where we could finish with both a DPU degree and University of Southampton degree. Having both degrees gives a good impression in interviews and also acts as confirmation of your English ability.
What were the highlights of the course?
One highlight was my collection being shown at Beijing Fashion Week last year. The Fashion Week is for university students. Each university chooses the students producing the best work in their final collection. If you are selected, your work is shown on the runway there, which is exciting.
Where did the inspiration for your collection come from?
Between years three and four I spent the summer in Egypt. I was there for a job, but it was also a way to broaden my horizons. Fashion students try to think of different things; I took a sketch book and if I saw something interesting I would draw it. I saw the waves in the sea, for example, and I tried to imagine them as a dress. I saw things I had never seen in China, beautiful handcrafted items. I had a wonderful time and was inspired by the country.
Why were you in Egypt?
I was a Global Volunteer through the organisation AIESEC. My programme was called Explore – promoting tourism in Egypt. The country had suffered from terrorist attacks, and tourism was on the decline, so the government wanted to promote the country. We travelled all over, doing interviews with tourists, taking pictures and videos, and writing blogs. Aside from the work, volunteers came from all over the world, which was fascinating. We had a party where we dressed in traditional costume. I was stunned by the beautiful dresses worn by some African girls, and the impact of my Egyptian friend removing her headscarf. I think, with all these different experiences, they were the happiest days of my life so far.
What are you doing now?
After graduating, I was a fashion editor for Taobao, the largest online shop in China, similar to Amazon. I was a fashion editor and would help with photoshoots. In April this year I moved to a fashion media company in Beijing that has an online fashion magazine, Spotlight. I am a stylist; I source clothes from brands and match them, putting an image together for photoshoots. I also write fashion articles.
What would you like to do in the future?
Definitely more travel. I might do a masters degree, either in the UK or elsewhere, or work abroad. I enjoyed the international element of my course so much that my aim would be to leave China.
What would you say to other graduates looking to get experience abroad?
If you have the chance to study or work abroad, you should definitely take it, especially if you are an arts student.
But you have to go for the right reasons. The point of going to another country is to see and experience new things. Some of my friends study abroad and just use it as a means of escape. If you go there with that attitude it’s a waste of time. You have to go out and look for things that are really going to give you a new perspective. When I was in Egypt, I was watching some people talking. I don’t speak Arabic so I don’t know what they were talking about, but I could see something in their expressions and behaviour that was different. Everything is new, and that’s not just for design students, but for anyone. It’s very refreshing.