As a child, Shie Lyu would never have guessed that she would become a fashion designer. Born to a family of finance and business trailblazers in Chongqing, China, the H&M Design Award 2019 semi-finalist was a globetrotter, living in cities like New York, London and Tokyo. “No one in my family did art or fashion. I was just not that confident and I didn’t know much about the world of creation.”
Curiosity about fashion finally got the better of Lyu in Tokyo. Enrolling in classes at Bunka Fashion College, she started learning knitting and pattern-cutting techniques from scratch before eventually making her way to Parsons School of Design for a master’s degree. And even though she gained experience in public relations before becoming a designer, she explains that adjacent roles within fashion were not enough to satiate her desire to create something tangible. Hence, her eponymous New York-born, China-based brand, Shie Lyu, was born.
Preferring to be seen as an engineer rather than a designer, Lyu views fashion designer Hussein Chalayan and his unorthodox, sculptural pieces as one of her ultimate inspirations. But now that her brand has been established—with 10 outlets in China and one in Singapore called Yours—she has developed her own signature aesthetic she calls “futuristic craftsmanship”.
“I let the materials guide me to my final destination. I didn’t know what the end result was going to be.”
Her newly launched fall/winter 2022 collection will be her fourth commercial collection. Spurred on by the challenges posed by the limited amount of upcycled materials during the designing process, Lyu came up with an alternative. Cue zero-waste pattern cutting, a method she has been steadily developing over the last two seasons. “The efficiency is at 100 percent,” Lyu explains of this technique, which uses square cut-outs of fabric to minimise waste compared to the curved shapes factories use. The result? Pieces that are sustainable, stylish and a hit with consumers, with Net-a-Porter China being one of her clients.
Being sustainable to Lyu simply means making the best of what she already has. Amid the anxiety of her debut collection reveal and shuttering of supply stores in China at the beginning of the pandemic, she found solace in working with upcycled materials such as leftover Swarovski crystals from her time at Parsons. “I started looking around my studio and I tried to use things that were left over because there were no other options for me. I let the materials guide me to my final destination. I didn’t know what the end result was going to be,” she shares.
Lyu’s whimsical Glamour Buffer collection was the product of this trying period. It was ironically a highly meditative process where she was guided by the characteristics of each recycled medium, rather than working with sketches. Still, when it comes to sustainability in fashion, the designer asserts: “People really care about sustainability, and I think that’s a good thing, because if no one’s talking about it, nothing is going to happen.” Her inquisitive nature also pushed her to create leather-like bio fabrics made from seaweed, glycerine and bacteria.
As for what’s next for Lyu? The designer has been working on an NFT dress—a translucent silver design with zero-waste pattern cutting detailing—for a collaboration with Shanghainese mall Xintiandi, and plans to keep creating. “As a designer, I have the chance to collaborate with different people from different fields. So that’s very interesting and I’m looking forward to all these opportunities.