Interview: Su Hanwei
Luca Curci talks with Su Hanwei during the 5th Edition of ROME INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2022, at Medina Art Gallery.
Hanwei Su is a New York-based fashion designer who attended Parsons and is currently preparing to debut her FW23 collection for her own label during New York Fashion Week in February 2023. She is motivated to continue by the desire to give back through clothing design and to create a more wholesome fashion industry. It should be obvious that the main topics of her discussions have consistently been rights, equality, sustainability, and humanitarian issues. She focuses on investigating real-world solutions to environmental and societal problems rather than only debating them conceptually, including but not limited to material experiments and practices, design methods, and new systems. Her creations have been highlighted in publications, and she earned the Tishman Fund for Excellence in Climate, Environmental Justice, and Sustainability in addition to reaching the finals of the IYDC Sustainable Fashion Competition.
Luca Curci – What are you currently working on?
Su Hanwei – As a fashion designer, my current priority is to present my FW23 collection at New York Fashion Week in February 2023. This collection was inspired by Chinese farmers like my grandmother. My grandmother makes me feel a certain way, so I want to develop a brand that represents a warm, steady, pragmatic activism. I want young people to have this attitude. This mindset, in my opinion, may both motivate people to follow their passions and develop in them the capacity to come up with solutions to urgent issues. Additionally, the brand has a feminist undertone. Because tools do not differentiate between men and women and instead symbolize both genders while in use, it concentrates on tools in particular, particularly hoes. As a result, the brand name of the company is a combination of hoes, a piece of machinery that represents the farmer’s attitude, and the most frequent and obvious way to refer to a fashion house. Maison de hoe is the end result.
LC – What is art for you?
SH – In my opinion, compared to lengthy philosophical debates built on words, art is the most efficient, direct, and impressive way to express and connect with one another about issues related to all of our thoughts, fantasies, wonders, and quests for existence as well as the universe. But personally, I find that art simply gives me a sense of freedom and peace. I’ve had freedom from it ever since I was so little. It doesn’t always correlate with skill level. It is a reality that your perception and thinking are affected. So no one is prohibited from creating art because of their age, race, gender, method, or medium. And what really appeals to me about art is how much freedom it gives people.
LC – Do visitors’ suggestions enrich yourself and your art?
SH – I have always like listening to other people’s opinions and views, whether they agree with me or have different perceptions or ideas. It generates new conversations and frequently deepens the meaning of the art I do because everyone will have a fresh perspective on it.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
SH – Making a living as an artist is undoubtedly more tough but also more exciting. As technology advances, artists have access to cutting-edge tools and materials and are no longer restricted to the conventional medium. So it’s amazing to witness an increase in the number of mind-blowing works released each year. Everything is now returning to creativity. With a strong idea and immersive tool, a lot may be accomplished even on a tight budget. However, artists must understand how to market themselves to the public, particularly in a time when people are bombarded with tons of information every minute. For the majority of artists today, finding a balance between their artistic and commercial ideals is a difficult and challenging undertaking.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
SH – The hardest thing is always trying to change people’s perceptions of my work when I offer it to them. I like the phrase “garment artist” better than “fashion designer” personally. Since I was young, I have engaged in creative activities. Painting is the practice I engage in most frequently. But I’ve always loved to stand out and go against the norm. As a result, I eventually determined that fabric and clothing would be my preferred means of expression. The industry itself is a mix of perhaps 98% commercial and 2% artistic, making the profession itself quite difficult. People do not perceive clothing with the same mindset as they do when viewing a painting or a sculpture in a gallery area. How might the design of garments help to address social and environmental problems? How is it that someone might perceive a piece of clothes as an artistic creation? My main objective is to answer these two fundamental questions since they guide me in the right route.
LC – How do you choose your subjects? Is it a reasoned or an instinctive process?
SH – Rights, equality, sustainability, and humanitarian issues have continuously been the main topics of my discussions. Instead of only discussing them intellectually, I concentrate on looking into practical solutions to environmental and societal issues, such as but not limited to material experiments and practices, design methodologies, and new systems. One or more of the aforementioned central ideas are present in every piece of art I’ve produced. It flows fairly easily. I think this is because these are the subjects that usually make me feel something. “Wild growth,” for instance, encourages sustainability. The topic of “Pretty Hurt” is women’s rights and beauty standards. For the visually impaired community, I recently completed a project called “I’m Blind, But I Have OCD of Color-Matching,” for which I conducted over 300 pages of interviews with eight visually impaired people in three different countries. In this project, I tried to use fashion and technology to make clothing educational so that it can contribute to the solution. I now describe my project as a series of experiments—experiments meant to produce a solution. I keep trying out new techniques, validating them, and accumulating data under the heading of each project.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
SH – Pain and beauty have always seemed to be incompatible opposites that coexist. But human experience of female beauty on a spiritual level frequently results from the entanglement of anguish on a physical level. For the broader public today, this phenomenon is still mysterious but fascinating. From ancient times to the present, from the east to the west, these rituals have created painful experiences while also contributing to a particular notion of beauty in society at the moment. Examples include foot binding, tattooing, piercing, S&M, etc. Why is pain attractive? Is there an active relationship between the beauty standards imposed by society and the choices women make today regarding their appearance, or are they only a passive outcome of oppression brought on by a male-dominated culture? I collaborated with photographer Deanna Long to create the project “Pretty Hurt,” which combined pleasure, pain, and suffering without providing a resolution. As the title put it “It hurts, it looks pretty, and it hurts PRETTY BAD. Do people feel oppressed by their choices when they look at this, or the other way around?”
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
SH – Of course, I believe the ITSLIQUID GROUP hosts many fantastic events and exhibitions that support the promotion of artists from around the world to new audiences.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
SH – I find it to be quite welcoming and encouraging. My inquiries have always received prompt responses, which tremendously helps the process.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
SH – Yes, it’s a great experience, and I’d want to work with the team again.