It is not unusual to hear stories of remarkable accomplishments by Yorkies. But what is sometimes surprising is that they appear in a way that is a bit unexpected and in someone so young.
Ming, who will be entering Grade 12 next year, has a quiet and humble way about her. But don’t be fooled by her unassuming nature. This spring, this York House student, who is already quite well known for her painting and drawing, was invited to present her fashion-forward label, CRAZYYABAI, at Vancouver Fashion Week.
People that are truly passionate about something often say that they knew at a very young age. A YHS student since Kindergarten, Ming remembers having an interest in fashion from the age of five. But what is truly remarkable is that she didn’t begin to act on it until just last year, and this is where the story gets really interesting.
Following her mother’s advice, she focused on fine arts. Her mom already recognized her creative talent, but she encouraged Ming to build her foundation skills first. Years later, when she began to get a little bored with painting and drawing, she started personalizing her own clothing (not her uniform of course) in small ways at first.
Watching her mother, a seamstress herself, create clothing eventually inspired Ming to try it herself. Only a year ago, she started with a basic course, and she would practise every chance she got. She started with something simple – a hoodie. She stenciled the pattern, played with the fabric, and sometimes it took her 16 hours just to make one hoodie as she made mistakes along the way.
Last year, Grade 10 for Ming, offered her more time and if she didn’t have homework she would sometimes spend up to eight hours just creating and sewing. The academic commitment in Grade 11 this made that a little more challenging.
It all started with the Fine Arts class she has been taking since she was five on Granville Island. One of her pieces was selected to be featured in an exhibit downtown and at the show opening, she met someone who not only liked her painting but whose interest was piqued by what she was wearing. Ming began sharing her passion for fashion design. And as things sometimes unfold, this person knew the director of Vancouver Fashion Week. Two weeks later Ming had a meeting set with the Director. At her mother’s encouragement, she brought along some of her clothing.
The Director was so impressed with both the uniqueness and maturity of the designs that she invited Ming to present eight outfits for Vancouver Fashion Week and Vancouver Kids Fashion Week in the New Designer category.
With only two months to prepare eight complete outfits (each outfit required four garments each for a total of 32 pieces) during Term 2 (the hardest term in Ming’s opinion), the pressure was on. But with the help of her mom and her friend Sunita, who she used as her fitting model, Ming went to work.
Reflecting back, Ming says that her biggest learning was probably in the whole process. The outfits changed completely from start to finish. She began sketching but when it came time to assemble the outfits she had to be adaptable. Sometimes materials would be unavailable or what looked good on paper didn’t seem to work in reality. During the winter break, her mother and her went to Seoul, Korea on what was meant to be a holiday, but they soon happily discovered that Seoul has a DIY culture that makes it a mecca for finding interesting materials and accessories.
As Vancouver Fashion Week approached, she was then introduced to all that it takes to put a show together. It is not just about the clothing! She had five assistants assigned to her in the days leading up to the show.
One week before the show, she had to fit the models and more than half the clothing didn’t fit properly because she wasn’t given accurate measurements – some measurements were as far out as 10 inches, which changed the entire look of each piece.
She had to collaborate with the show DJ to create a playlist of uncopyrighted music, which was a challenge in itself. For the last four days, she spent her time making accessories to accompany each outfit including chokers and earrings. By the end of those days, her fingers were covered in band-aids, but she would just keep going. She also had to collaborate eight separate looks with the hairdressers and make-up artists, which were hard to narrow down.
In spite of the enormous pressure, what Ming struggled most with was consistency. She was trying to bring together a complete look with consistent lines, but the fact that she is so young made her feel that this was quite a challenge to achieve. She had the maturity to know that it is hard to keep the lines consistent throughout the collection when her own identity is still evolving. Often she felt frustrated and experienced a rollercoaster of emotions, but her mom helped keep her focused.
On the day of the show, there was a scheduled rehearsal in the morning, complete with the choreography, and somehow she was quite relaxed. But by show time there were 120 people backstage, with show assistants and choreographers all running around with headsets, models and six assistants that were there to help her get the models dressed, and photographers taking photos. By then, the realization hit that this was actually happening. Her collection was now on the runway and she was nudged onto the stage where she was just so thankful that it was done. She had accomplished what she set out to do. But only moments after her collection was revealed, the show coordinator grabbed her and suddenly there were about 20 media people surrounding her and clamoring for her attention.
After the show, she simply went for bubble tea and then home to bed where she was probably more tired than she had ever been in her life. But the story doesn’t end there. A few days after Vancouver Fashion Week, she received an email from the Director of Paris/London Fashion Week and they offered her her own exclusive fashion show. Not as a young designer, not as a new designer, but just as a designer in her own right.
She has already started sketching and it looks like she will be working on her collection for much of the summer. It will be exciting to see this next collection from CRAZYYABAI and what will come next for this young fashion designer in our midst!