Since 2000 Mei-hui Liu has been creating one-off items on London's Fashion Street, just off buzzing Brick Lane. A Taiwan-born devotee of Victorian lace and frills, she soon found herself slashing some of the sweetness out of salvaged garments and antique trimmings, developing an edgy and individual look. Her label is among 15 exhibiting at this season's London Fashion Week ethical showcase Estethica, and here she reveals a little bit more about herself and the thoughts behind her new collection:What does fashion mean to you?
For me, I guess fashion is like a giant alarm clock going off, as if to say: 'time to practise your signature again'. Fashion is all about cycles whereas I'm all about creating a lasting personal style. So it's probably good that designers like me feel the pressure from the fashion system to constantly refresh our brands.
When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
I think it started when I was travelling through Italy the year before I moved to London. But it really hit me when I got to London and started organising parties in the underground club scene that was bubbling up. I was making clothes for myself and selling at the market and things just spiralled out of control -- in a good way. Before I even realised it, people were calling me a designer.
What inspired your SS13 collection?
It is about time -- periods of time actually -- and how they can sometimes seem to overlap in life. I took that idea and set it to the muse of an old silent film-era starlet. I guess it ended up being a decadent time-travel journey through an imagined Victorian, Edwardian and late 20th century life for her through the clothes she wore along the way.
Who is the Victim Fashion Street customer?
I'm really lucky because my customer is very diverse, which I love. I have posh young girls in their mid-teens buying total looks with their mums who also end up buying a few separates. And at the other end of the spectrum, I have club kids and women of all ages who have an eccentric streak or who love a touch of extravagance. I even have a few inspirational elderly women who are way past their retirement but younger in spirit than most 20-year-olds.
How do you source your fabrics?
I use recycled fabrics and vintage clothes as fabric -- which I disassemble in varying degrees -- or sometimes dead stock vintage fabrics that I find at markets and from reliable suppliers. The embellishments, which are my easiest-to-spot signature, are also antiques or vintage items which I get either from junk shops or sometimes I get lucky and score a rare precious Victorian item of beauty.
How do you prepare for LFW?
How do any of us actually prepare for fashion week? I don't know how we ever get through it, to be honest. I guess you just have to resign yourself to not getting any sleep for a few weeks.
What does it mean for your label to be part of Estethica 2012?
I've been hand-making upcycled high fashion for over a decade, long before the eco-fashion and sustainable design movements really gained momentum in the mainstream fashion industry. There were only a handful of us in London back then. But now, thankfully, it has taken off and I think Estethica is definitely one of the main drivers for this. Bravo to them for being such pioneers and making us into a real market force. I'm so pleased to be under their umbrella.
Find out more at www.victimfashionst.com