Current status: Creating fabric masks for his community
Known for: Whimsical and feminine designs with a tinge of adolescent nostalgia
When I first spoke to Alex S. Yu in early March, the Taiwanese-Canadian designer was preparing to show a new collection at Vancouver Fashion Week. The event was cancelled two weeks later as the COVID-19 pandemic put an indefinite pause on public gatherings. Now, instead of fulfilling orders, he’s repurposing leftover fabric into homemade non-medical cotton masks for workers at the local grocery store, visitors at his family doctor’s office and friends; he leaves them outside his door so people can safely pick them up when needed. Without a way to show his pieces and unable to plan for the upcoming season, this is all he can do. But unexpected changes have always been a part of Yu’s journey. Originally, he studied computer science (”I just hated it”) and yearned for a different path, which led him to enroll in a sewing course for beginners. After completing the fashion program at Vancouver’s Blanche Macdonald Centre and a postgrad at the London College of Fashion, Yu launched his eponymous label, garnering international press and stockists for his fresh and youthful vision.
“In high school, you’re figuring out what you want to do. Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model were very popular at the time, and that sparked my interest. I was on the computer all day looking at fashion shows because there wasn’t really any social media back then. You had to go on the actual websites to look at the pictures.”
“I usually start with a broader concept, mostly inspired by film and contemporary art. I take inspiration from coming-of-age movies like Mean Girls and Clueless – which have very clichéd stereotypes – and more alternative ones like Juno and The Craft. I look at visuals from the characters and blend them in my own way.”
“As designers, we’re used to working from home and working alone. The finances are what many people are the most concerned about. You have to make money in order to make next season’s [collection], so if this season is just cancelled, you don’t have the funds to buy fabrics or hire workers. We’re stuck here.”
“A lot of my buyers are from New York; half of them cancelled their orders because they can’t open their stores and they don’t know when they’ll be able to. A lot of people have lost their jobs. Many of my customers are probably in the same position. It does suck, but right now, this is the reality. There’s no point in dwelling on it. I just try to be optimistic and hope that this will pass.”
This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of ELLE Canada. Subscribe to ELLE Canada here or buy a digital copy of the June issue here.
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