Samuel Gui Yang (and why emerging designers are so important)


Fashion is such a spectrum. At one end you’ve got the pieces that are produced en masse without much attention from human hand or eye once the original designs are signed off. And at the other end there are labels designing with acute attention to every single detail, from the variation in fabric choices to the smallest finishing stitch.

Designer Samuel Gui Yang emerged from a background in fine art, via both BA and MA in Womenswear design at Central Saint Martins, firmly into the second camp. He not only develops his own concepts and designs but his own fabrics too. His pieces aren’t just different aesthetically but integrate a unique understanding of the relationship between fashion and physicality. As he told Vogue in 2016, “My interest in fashion is guided by an interest in the human form… specifically in how it allows contact or proximity to the living body that isn’t as obvious in other artistic media.”

Of course the idea of fashion as an art form is nothing new. But every time this revelation hits a new generation of graduates fresh perspectives are formed and the industry has the opportunity to evolve. When Samuel Gui Yang finished his MA in 2015 he said of the course “it’s about how to be honest with yourself and understand how to transfer your ideas and develop the whole collection in a way that’s ‘you’.” This is what so often gets lost when commercial considerations start pressing – but not in this case, as all the collections from this label show.

AW18, for example, integrated apron-style printed dresses and the poetry of 1940s China, ”winged” jackets and quilted skirts in distinctive shiny fabric. Samuel Gui Yang incorporates style references from his own heritage, as well as modern innovation into all of his designs. For SS19, subtly altered tailored separates, trench coats and button down dresses showed an evolution to an even more wearable aesthetic. Pieces from the label come in at around the £380 mark for a skirt – not cheap, but the kind of thing even the least fashion conscious man or woman on the street could see has not come off a high street hanger.

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember what the purpose of fashion really is – it’s this huge, rich industry with vast influence over the way so many of us feel about ourselves and the judgments we make about others. It sometimes seems to be driving us blindly towards all the wrong things. But emerging labels like Samuel Gui Yang always bring you back to the point of it all – new perspectives, collaboration, creativity, mobilising consumer purchasing power and stepping outside the box. These are the labels giving the industry the opportunity to be more than generic design, polluting processes and fast fashion – all we need to do to make a difference is support them.

By Alex Pett.

Images Samuel Gui Yang.