Insights on the Chinese fashion designer's eclectic inspirations like Japanese fantasy tales and a look at her latest collection
Qinghe Cao is a talented young designer from Beijing's prestigious China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), with a very unique and imaginative style. In 2011 she launched her first collection of accessories "H=H," and in 2013 she was invited to showcase her creations at the International Fashion & Jewelry Fair
Qinghe always had a passion for old toys as imaginative tools to cross the boundaries of reality and float into a fantasy world. When she was an exchange student at Glasgow School of Art and her classmates were more interested in exploring local bars, she was spending her time daydreaming at local toy museums and galleries that targeted kids. “I love little crafts and old-fashioned objects. When I was a kid I used to handcraft dresses for my dolls and when I had to choose my major at university I thought that fashion design was the most suitable option for me," she says.
Qinghe’s fervent imagination results in attire that blurs the line between reality and fantasy; colorful dreams and dark hallucinations blend perfectly in her wicked and sublime creations that come to life. From her first collection “Misplaced” in 2012 to the most recent, “Do You Want my Sleeves," Japanese animation and fantasy tales have strongly influenced her. “In the past I used to get inspired by Tim Burton movies and Tim Walker’s photography. I still like their work, but at some point I had a sort of Japanese animation addiction and I watched all the classics." Undeniably, Qinghe’s dresses (and in particular her 2013 collection “Nightmare Game") seem to be closer to Hayao Miyazaki’s world of "Princess Mononoke" than to any other contemporary influence coming from the fashion world.
As for many other artists, Yayoi Kusama was another important source of inspiration for Qinghe and the Japanese artist became the theme and the virtual mentor of Qinghe’s first research work developed in Glasgow. “I like Kusama’s artwork and I find some common experiences with her. Since my childhood, I share with her my passion for dreams, hallucinatory images, explosions of colors and lucid dreaming. I found it very strange that in the UK, few of my schoolmates actually knew about Kusama, unless I mentioned her project with Louis Vuitton. She’s probably typically Asian and therefore not so easy to understand for the Western audience."
Uninterested in engaging in commercial work or ready-made collections, Qinghe will be soon moving to New York to further her education, attending Parsons The New School for Design. In the meantime, she is focusing on small collections without any production restrictions or time constraints. It's a vital way for her to create currently because her attention to detail is meticulous (with each piece requiring a month of work, being almost entirely handcrafted by herself) and most importantly, it offers the freedom to follow her imagination wherever it may take her.
Images courtesy of Qinghe Cao