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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Pre-LFW interview: Yan To

I caught up with the new designer on the block ahead of the frenzy of LFW to discuss all things fashion.

Written by Rachael Oku

1Alexander McQueen in 2005. Image courtesy of The Guardian, check recipe photographed by Martin Godwin

My first steps into the fashion world could not be described as tentative: in every sense I was placed smack bang in the middle of it, this web interning in the press office of the company which defined British fashion, view Alexander McQueen. The experience was every bit I had imagined it to be, for better or worse – a sharp, sleek office of metal stairways and white walls, elfin models drifting through, manic sample send outs, the occasional cup of tea to the man himself.

2Alexander Mcqueen Aw09, ‘The Horn of plenty’.

To be in such physical proximity to that which had propelled him to global notoriety was nothing short of surreal: the bumster trousers, the white, spray-painted dress worn by Shalom Harlow, the carved wooden legs made for disabled model Aimee Mullins. The stuff of fashion legend. I have never been motivated by fast fashion: next season’s trouser shapes, on trend prints, the effectively meaningless information that makes up monthly glossy shopping pages. Lee McQueen always made fashion exist as spectacle, knowing that like art, it was something that needed to be responded to – executed in sometimes brutal and accusatory ways, loaded with reference and impossible to watch without reaction.

The first fashion show I ever went to was an Alexander McQueen one, which was the Autumn Winter 2009 show ‘The Horn of Plenty’ in a sports stadium on the outskirts of Paris. A retrospective of old collections, I watched with a huge, silly grin as ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Chic pulsated out of the speakers followed by some twisted drum and bass, with frighteningly white-faced models with clown-like red lips stalked about a mountain of old props from past shows – the effect, as always with McQueen, was menace and beauty in equal parts. The wild cheers that erupted from the audience I found surprising; I later learned that they came from a fierce love that the normally reserved fashion crowd had for McQueen.

4Alexander Mcqueen SS10, ‘Plato’s Atlantis’.

Fashion houses that work on such a large scale lose sight of a lot of things, make no mistake – but at Alexander McQueen’s heart was a man who worked with nothing but the raw feelings that he invariably rendered into daring, breathtaking beauty. He was not afraid to inform his personal life into his work: from horrific violence witnessed as a child, or the coral reefs in the Maldives seen on a snorkelling holiday translated into the shimmering prints and footwear of his most recent collection, Plato’s Atlantis.


1Alexander McQueen in 2005. Image courtesy of The Guardian, salve photographed by Martin Godwin

My first steps into the fashion world could not be described as tentative: in every sense I was placed smack bang in the middle of it, generic interning in the press office of the company which defined British fashion, Alexander McQueen. The experience was every bit I had imagined it to be, for better or worse – a sharp, sleek office of metal stairways and white walls, elfin models drifting through, manic sample send outs, the occasional cup of tea to the man himself.

2Alexander Mcqueen Aw09, ‘The Horn of plenty’.

To be in such physical proximity to that which had propelled him to global notoriety was nothing short of surreal: the bumster trousers, the white, spray-painted dress worn by Shalom Harlow, the carved wooden legs made for disabled model Aimee Mullins. The stuff of fashion legend. I have never been motivated by fast fashion: next season’s trouser shapes, on trend prints, the effectively meaningless information that makes up monthly glossy shopping pages. Lee McQueen always made fashion exist as spectacle, knowing that like art, it was something that needed to be responded to – executed in sometimes brutal and accusatory ways, loaded with reference and impossible to watch without reaction.

The first fashion show I ever went to was an Alexander McQueen one, which was the Autumn Winter 2009 show ‘The Horn of Plenty’ in a sports stadium on the outskirts of Paris. A retrospective of old collections, I watched with a huge, silly grin as ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Chic pulsated out of the speakers followed by some twisted drum and bass, with frighteningly white-faced models with clown-like red lips stalked about a mountain of old props from past shows – the effect, as always with McQueen, was menace and beauty in equal parts. The wild cheers that erupted from the audience I found surprising; I later learned that they came from a fierce love that the normally reserved fashion crowd had for McQueen.

4Alexander Mcqueen SS10, ‘Plato’s Atlantis’.

Fashion houses that work on such a large scale lose sight of a lot of things, make no mistake – but at Alexander McQueen’s heart was a man who worked with nothing but the raw feelings that he invariably rendered into daring, breathtaking beauty. He was not afraid to inform his personal life into his work: from horrific violence witnessed as a child, or the coral reefs in the Maldives seen on a snorkelling holiday translated into the shimmering prints and footwear of his most recent collection, Plato’s Atlantis.


1Alexander McQueen in 2005. Image courtesy of The Guardian, this photographed by Martin Godwin

My first steps into the fashion world could not be described as tentative: in every sense I was placed smack bang in the middle of it, information pills interning in the press office of the company which defined British fashion, web Alexander McQueen. The experience was every bit I had imagined it to be, for better or worse – a sharp, sleek office of metal stairways and white walls, elfin models drifting through, manic sample send outs, the occasional cup of tea to the man himself.

2Alexander Mcqueen Aw09, ‘The Horn of plenty’.

To be in such physical proximity to that which had propelled him to global notoriety was nothing short of surreal: the bumster trousers, the white, spray-painted dress worn by Shalom Harlow, the carved wooden legs made for disabled model Aimee Mullins. The stuff of fashion legend. I have never been motivated by fast fashion: next season’s trouser shapes, on trend prints, the effectively meaningless information that makes up monthly glossy shopping pages. Lee McQueen always made fashion exist as spectacle, knowing that like art, it was something that needed to be responded to – executed in sometimes brutal and accusatory ways, loaded with reference and impossible to watch without reaction.

The first fashion show I ever went to was an Alexander McQueen one, which was the Autumn Winter 2009 show ‘The Horn of Plenty’ in a sports stadium on the outskirts of Paris. A retrospective of old collections, I watched with a huge, silly grin as ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Chic pulsated out of the speakers followed by some twisted drum and bass, with frighteningly white-faced models with clown-like red lips stalked about a mountain of old props from past shows – the effect, as always with McQueen, was menace and beauty in equal parts. The wild cheers that erupted from the audience I found surprising; I later learned that they came from a fierce love that the normally reserved fashion crowd had for McQueen.

4Alexander Mcqueen SS10, ‘Plato’s Atlantis’.

Fashion houses that work on such a large scale lose sight of a lot of things, make no mistake – but at Alexander McQueen’s heart was a man who worked with nothing but the raw feelings that he invariably rendered into daring, breathtaking beauty. He was not afraid to inform his personal life into his work: from horrific violence witnessed as a child, or the coral reefs in the Maldives seen on a snorkelling holiday translated into the shimmering prints and footwear of his most recent collection, Plato’s Atlantis.


1Alexander McQueen in 2005. Image courtesy of The Guardian, here photographed by Martin Godwin

My first steps into the fashion world could not be described as tentative: in every sense I was placed smack bang in the middle of it, interning in the press office of the company which defined British fashion, Alexander McQueen. The experience was every bit I had imagined it to be, for better or worse – a sharp, sleek office of metal stairways and white walls, elfin models drifting through, manic sample send outs, the occasional cup of tea to the man himself.

2Alexander Mcqueen Aw09, ‘The Horn of plenty’.

To be in such physical proximity to that which had propelled him to global notoriety was nothing short of surreal: the bumster trousers, the white, spray-painted dress worn by Shalom Harlow, the carved wooden legs made for disabled model Aimee Mullins. The stuff of fashion legend. I have never been motivated by fast fashion: next season’s trouser shapes, on trend prints, the effectively meaningless information that makes up monthly glossy shopping pages. Lee McQueen always made fashion exist as spectacle, knowing that like art, it was something that needed to be responded to – executed in sometimes brutal and accusatory ways, loaded with reference and impossible to watch without reaction.

The first fashion show I ever went to was an Alexander McQueen one, which was the Autumn Winter 2009 show ‘The Horn of Plenty’ in a sports stadium on the outskirts of Paris. A retrospective of old collections, I watched with a huge, silly grin as ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Chic pulsated out of the speakers followed by some twisted drum and bass, with frighteningly white-faced models with clown-like red lips stalked about a mountain of old props from past shows – the effect, as always with McQueen, was menace and beauty in equal parts. The wild cheers that erupted from the audience I found surprising; I later learned that they came from a fierce love that the normally reserved fashion crowd had for McQueen.

4Alexander Mcqueen SS10, ‘Plato’s Atlantis’.

Fashion houses that work on such a large scale lose sight of a lot of things, make no mistake – but at Alexander McQueen’s heart was a man who worked with nothing but the raw feelings that he invariably rendered into daring, breathtaking beauty. He was not afraid to inform his personal life into his work: from horrific violence witnessed as a child, or the coral reefs in the Maldives seen on a snorkelling holiday translated into the shimmering prints and footwear of his most recent collection, Plato’s Atlantis.


1Alexander McQueen in 2005. Image courtesy of The Guardian, salve photographed by Martin Godwin

My first steps into the fashion world could not be described as tentative: in every sense I was placed smack bang in the middle of it, pill interning in the press office of the company which defined British fashion, Alexander McQueen. The experience was every bit I had imagined it to be, for better or worse – a sharp, sleek office of metal stairways and white walls, elfin models drifting through, manic sample send outs, the occasional cup of tea to the man himself.

2Alexander Mcqueen Aw09, ‘The Horn of plenty’.

To be in such physical proximity to that which had propelled him to global notoriety was nothing short of surreal: the bumster trousers, the white, spray-painted dress worn by Shalom Harlow, the carved wooden legs made for disabled model Aimee Mullins. The stuff of fashion legend. I have never been motivated by fast fashion: next season’s trouser shapes, on trend prints, the effectively meaningless information that makes up monthly glossy shopping pages. Lee McQueen always made fashion exist as spectacle, knowing that like art, it was something that needed to be responded to – executed in sometimes brutal and accusatory ways, loaded with reference and impossible to watch without reaction.

The first fashion show I ever went to was an Alexander McQueen one, which was the Autumn Winter 2009 show ‘The Horn of Plenty’ in a sports stadium on the outskirts of Paris. A retrospective of old collections, I watched with a huge, silly grin as ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Chic pulsated out of the speakers followed by some twisted drum and bass, with frighteningly white-faced models with clown-like red lips stalked about a mountain of old props from past shows – the effect, as always with McQueen, was menace and beauty in equal parts. The wild cheers that erupted from the audience I found surprising; I later learned that they came from a fierce love that the normally reserved fashion crowd had for McQueen.

4Alexander Mcqueen SS10, ‘Plato’s Atlantis’.

Fashion houses that work on such a large scale lose sight of a lot of things, make no mistake – but at Alexander McQueen’s heart was a man who worked with nothing but the raw feelings that he invariably rendered into daring, breathtaking beauty. He was not afraid to inform his personal life into his work: from horrific violence witnessed as a child, or the coral reefs in the Maldives seen on a snorkelling holiday translated into the shimmering prints and footwear of his most recent collection, Plato’s Atlantis.


1Alexander McQueen in 2005. Image courtesy of The Guardian, buy information pills photographed by Martin Godwin

My first steps into the fashion world could not be described as tentative: in every sense I was placed smack bang in the middle of it, more about interning in the press office of the company which defined British fashion, visit Alexander McQueen. The experience was every bit I had imagined it to be, for better or worse – a sharp, sleek office of metal stairways and white walls, elfin models drifting through, manic sample send outs, the occasional cup of tea to the man himself.

2Alexander Mcqueen Aw09, ‘The Horn of plenty’.

To be in such physical proximity to that which had propelled him to global notoriety was nothing short of surreal: the bumster trousers, the white, spray-painted dress worn by Shalom Harlow, the carved wooden legs made for disabled model Aimee Mullins. The stuff of fashion legend. I have never been motivated by fast fashion: next season’s trouser shapes, on trend prints, the effectively meaningless information that makes up monthly glossy shopping pages. Lee McQueen always made fashion exist as spectacle, knowing that like art, it was something that needed to be responded to – executed in sometimes brutal and accusatory ways, loaded with reference and impossible to watch without reaction.

The first fashion show I ever went to was an Alexander McQueen one, which was the Autumn Winter 2009 show ‘The Horn of Plenty’ in a sports stadium on the outskirts of Paris. A retrospective of old collections, I watched with a huge, silly grin as ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Chic pulsated out of the speakers followed by some twisted drum and bass, with frighteningly white-faced models with clown-like red lips stalked about a mountain of old props from past shows – the effect, as always with McQueen, was menace and beauty in equal parts. The wild cheers that erupted from the audience I found surprising; I later learned that they came from a fierce love that the normally reserved fashion crowd had for McQueen.

4Alexander Mcqueen SS10, ‘Plato’s Atlantis’.

Fashion houses that work on such a large scale lose sight of a lot of things, make no mistake – but at Alexander McQueen’s heart was a man who worked with nothing but the raw feelings that he invariably rendered into daring, breathtaking beauty. He was not afraid to inform his personal life into his work: from horrific violence witnessed as a child, or the coral reefs in the Maldives seen on a snorkelling holiday translated into the shimmering prints and footwear of his most recent collection, Plato’s Atlantis.
1Alexander McQueen in 2005. Image courtesy of The Guardian, buy information pills photographed by Martin Godwin

My first steps into the fashion world could not be described as tentative: in every sense I was placed smack bang in the middle of it, sildenafil interning in the press office of the company which defined British fashion, Alexander McQueen. The experience was every bit I had imagined it to be, for better or worse – a sharp, sleek office of metal stairways and white walls, elfin models drifting through, manic sample send outs, the occasional cup of tea to the man himself.

2Alexander Mcqueen Aw09, ‘The Horn of plenty’.

To be in such physical proximity to that which had propelled him to global notoriety was nothing short of surreal: the bumster trousers, the white, spray-painted dress worn by Shalom Harlow, the carved wooden legs made for disabled model Aimee Mullins. The stuff of fashion legend. I have never been motivated by fast fashion: next season’s trouser shapes, on trend prints, the effectively meaningless information that makes up monthly glossy shopping pages. Lee McQueen always made fashion exist as spectacle, knowing that like art, it was something that needed to be responded to – executed in sometimes brutal and accusatory ways, loaded with reference and impossible to watch without reaction.

The first fashion show I ever went to was an Alexander McQueen one, which was the Autumn Winter 2009 show ‘The Horn of Plenty’ in a sports stadium on the outskirts of Paris. A retrospective of old collections, I watched with a huge, silly grin as ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Chic pulsated out of the speakers followed by some twisted drum and bass, with frighteningly white-faced models with clown-like red lips stalked about a mountain of old props from past shows – the effect, as always with McQueen, was menace and beauty in equal parts. The wild cheers that erupted from the audience I found surprising; I later learned that they came from a fierce love that the normally reserved fashion crowd had for McQueen.

4Alexander Mcqueen SS10, ‘Plato’s Atlantis’.

Fashion houses that work on such a large scale lose sight of a lot of things, make no mistake – but at Alexander McQueen’s heart was a man who worked with nothing but the raw feelings that he invariably rendered into daring, breathtaking beauty. He was not afraid to inform his personal life into his work: from horrific violence witnessed as a child, or the coral reefs in the Maldives seen on a snorkelling holiday translated into the shimmering prints and footwear of his most recent collection, Plato’s Atlantis.

Since moving onto other things, I have found it impossible to leave McQueen behind, and know that others who have found the same. Fashion can be an industry about wealth and connections, yet McQueen stood out as somebody whose position was realised by raw talent. The media’s intrusion into his personal life and issues is, of course, uncomfortable, but while his work always spoke for itself, there’s no denying we also loved what we knew of the man behind it, whose often devastatingly human spirit proved testament to limitless imagination and our own capacities to create.
Orange burn holes halter-neckImages throughout courtesy of Yan To, salve depicting the SS10 collection ‘One’.

I recently came across your designs at the Iroquois press day and was amazed that your SS10 collection, treatment ‘One’ was your first ever collection. What made you leave the world of corporate advertising in favour of fashion design?
I am very humbled by the positive reaction I received to One. A lot of people have a dream and when I had the chance to follow mine, approved it really was not a difficult decision to make. Reconnecting with your soul is a beautiful thing.

Black rose applique dress

Your debut collection, ‘One’ features many sexy dresses made from luxurious fabrics distressed with everything from spray paint to Marlboro Light cigarettes. You’re clearly a very resourceful designer, how did these ideas come to you? Was it a gradual process of experimentation?
My design process largely takes place in my head. I create problems which I then set out to solve. In the case of the techniques used in One, I was left to my own devices for the weekend and it just seemed like a good idea to hang dresses on the washing line and see what would happen if I attacked them with paint. The burning was an experiment really, but I had no spare fabric and it was quite late at night so I decided to try it on a dress. I tried burning dresses in my kitchen but the potential for a fire drove me outside. It was actually really surreal burning holes in my dresses against a backdrop of stars on a still and clear night.

Checked jacket and skirt

From the artistic elements sampled in your debut collection one might say that you approach fashion design like an artist would approach a blank canvas. Is this a fair estimation?
Maybe. I strive to challenge the way I think about fashion and as such I am happy to take a lot of risks. As I received no formal training and at first I did have a few hang ups about this, but then I rationalised that I could use this to my advantage. I do not have a skill set, which I am comfortable to fall back on so every piece is a challenge and a struggle. I am not apprehensive in trying anything as there is no easier route to take. That said though, the design process is often very slow. I would definitely agree with your reference to a blank canvas.

Red rose applique dress

Do you have any fashion heroes, if so who?
I think Pierre Cardin was a visionary before the merchandisers took over. As for people who have touched me directly, I would have to say that a guy called Chris who is a pattern cutter at a sampler’s I use is a real hero. He has lived the rag trade most of his life, doing most jobs within it. He is the perfect foil for me and I have learned so much by observing him make sense and reality of my ramblings. He is a real tradesman with the soul of an artisan.

Orange sprayed halter-neck

Is there any one woman that you would love to see wearing your designs, who you feel sums up your ethos as a designer?
I would have to say no. I think there is a danger as a designer in having an ideal woman. I believe my job is to learn how people work with my pieces and not dictate how I envisage the ideal to be. I do admire the styles of many people, some famous and some I see in everyday life.

Black brushstroke halter-neck

What is your inspiration for FW10, and what can we expect from your upcoming LFW presentation?
AW10 is a very different collection to One. The collection was created during a time of intense upheaval in my life and is tainted by regret, anger, guilt and yet the same time joy. There is no spray painting and so far no burning. There are also no halter neck dresses. Instead the focus is on form, manipulation and texture. The collection is larger and more diverse than before with the introduction of coats, leg wear and knitwear. It is far more innovative than One and may surprise many people who saw One. My refuge from the events (still) happening in my life was to design. The results are what I need to share.

Stripped trousers

How do you unwind after the stresses of LFW?
It is a privilege to be part of LFW and as such there is no stress. It’s just a series of problems to overcome. The stresses I encounter in other areas of my life, far outweigh anything I have so far experienced in fashion.

What has been your career’s biggest highlight to date?
I got a real high from seeing the first pieces of quality press.

Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to accomplishing this decade?
If I can maintain a level of integrity, grow with the people who have helped me, continue to design, have a great network of stockists and support my family, I will be a very happy man.

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