Featured Images: Laerke Rose Mollegaard
New York-based designer Daisy Wang thoughtfully weaves together ready-to-wear streetwear styles with modern chinoiserie. Her brand, DAWANG, sits in balance with the East and West while also embracing all the comfort and personalization that streetwear fashion has to offer.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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What was your introduction to fashion?
DAISY WANG: My introduction to fashion actually started in high school when we were required to take one class related to art or music. However, it wasn’t until I took a class on subcultures at Parsons School of Design when I realized that nobody was making the type of elevated Asian streetwear that I wanted to wear and consume — particularly pieces that were sleek, comfortable, ready-to-wear, and not costume-like.
How would you describe your own style?
DAISY WANG: My style has always been more casual, and streetwear-related. Growing up I was trained semi-professionally as a badminton player, and therefore most of my outfits were athletic. So, I’m always looking for comfort when it comes to my personal style.
When you entered the realm of fashion initially, what did you think of it? What did you want to do or change?
DAISY WANG: I was definitely lost at first because there are so many different approaches and specific categories to fashion. I was drawn to the couture side of fashion but during my studies at Parsons, we were taught a lot of values on sustainability and it led me to learn more about the organic approaches to textiles. So that is something I solely transferred my interest into. I realized then that sustainable fashion is the future and it’s something that every designer should be considering. From there, I created a few recycled denim projects that focused on how we can recycle denim and give it a new life. Actually, my original startup idea before modern chinoiserie was to do recycled denim because of everything Parsons taught me, and I wanted to bring forth some of these green values to the consumers.
What are some ways you are incorporating those green values with DAWANG?
DAISY WANG: So that is something that I’m actually working on right now. In our Fashion Week collection, we used sustainable materials — scrap fabrics that we saved from previous productions and figured out a way to patchwork them into different patterns to give it a new look. Another idea we’re working on is finding ways to repurpose our previous season’s stock by collaborating with various illustration and pattern-making artists instead of going through a sample sale process. This way, we’re giving our past season’s stock a new look and feel. One other idea that I’m working on is holding a “one-of-a-kind” production when there are only one or two pieces left over.
Where and how do you find inspiration for your designs and collections?
DAISY WANG: Everywhere. I have always been very observant growing up. When I first moved to NYC from boarding school, one of my favorite things to do was to find a bench on the street and check out the pedestrians passing by. I was thinking about what they were wearing, how the styling fits their vibe, and imagining what sort of occasions they were wearing these outfits to.
I’ve recently seen a post on Instagram of photographs taken from the 1950s in Chinatown, Manhattan during Lunar New Year. The same outfits worn in that picture can still be found in shops in Chinatown. The exact same look, pattern, and fabric. That had a great impact on me because I kept thinking about how after 70 years, people are still wearing the same designs. This motivated me also to create new styles and hopefully, iconic looks that could represent our current generation’s values and aesthetics.
Streetwear has ultimately become so complex and nuanced over the years, what kind of impact do you want DAWANG to make in the industry?
DAISY WANG: Streetwear is continuing to expand and is breaking away from this notion of gendered clothing. People are constantly learning about themselves through fashion. And there really shouldn’t be a gender barrier when it comes to fashion because it’s such an amazing way to express your unique identity. Right now, we are a women’s wear brand, but we’re also launching a unisex collection. Moving forward in a couple of years, we want to hopefully launch a full-sized unisex collection for all genders.
DAWANG’s mission is to promote our clothing as individual elements instead of complete looks. We want our customers to have the freedom to customize and create their own personal style through the pieces we offer.
What is the typical archetype of a DAWANG person (if any)? What do you hope people will feel when they wear DAWANG?
DAISY WANG: As of now, the younger generations (specifically Gen Z + Millennials) are our main consumers. They look for customization in the way they dress. In the past, people generally saw traditional Chinese garments as a costume or gimmick (no thanks to Hollywood’s problematic depiction and fetishization of Asian women). With DAWANG, we want to incorporate our Chinese culture into this notion of fashionable daily wear and encourage people of all backgrounds to celebrate modern chinoiserie in a respectful way.
What does “modern chinoiserie” mean to you? How did your upbringing and environment catalyze your identity as an artist, designer, and someone who is that bridge between two cultures?
DAISY WANG: To me, Qipao was the original founding moment of modern chinoiserie. Before the 1920s, women in China weren’t supposed to wear clothes above the ankles or wrist. When it was first created in the early 1920s, qipao was one of the first fashion representations of the mix of East and West — when the Chinese first started to accept Western cultures and influences. Before that, we were very protective of our traditions and culture. A women’s dress code in China forbids them to show too much skin or wear too tight of a fit like when wearing a Qipao.
So modern chinoiserie to me is when you choose to accept new trends and styles and at the same time, maintain a balance of traditional aesthetics — it’s more of a lifestyle really. It also represents a new generation of our Asian community looking for ways to reconnect to their roots through modern designs.
As an artist and creative, do you feel pressure to push out collections that are always better than the last?
DAISY WANG: Yes, definitely. Every season when I first start drafting designs, I am always concerned about whether people would like it as much as the last. Especially when I’m planning on doing something different than past seasons. For example, our FW21 runway show was the first collection where we went for a different approach with the use of colors and patchwork patterns. I was worried that our consumers wouldn’t like it as much as our previous seasons (where we were known for a simpler black and white palette).