Whimsy, Tradition, and Ethical Production – The Fashionable Success of Susan Fang

Mary Mang Hau Cing

Mary Mang Hau Cing

When international fashionistas spot a dreamy garment with floating folds and water droplets seemingly from another whimsical world, they know that it must come from no one other than Susan Fang. A London-based emerging fashion designer to keep eyes on, Susan Fang, builds her brand from a core of craftsmanship and sustainability. Although digitalization and advanced technology now factor greatly into the apparel design process, this designer relies on the traditional design and draping techniques used back in her hometown. 

Fang’s alluring designs have made her one of the top upcoming designers recognized by prestigious stockists Browns, Farfetch, Net a Porter, Selfridges, Dover Street Market London/Singapore/US, Machine-A, and IT. Her eponymous label produces collections that combine innovative textiles, colors, and silhouettes to create garments and accessories with artistic originality. Her designs have earned her notoriety in part thanks to a dreamy translucent fabric that she developed. This fabric creates the illusion of watercolor flower petals.

Spring/Summer 2021 Fashion Collection SusanFang

Susan Fang Official Website – S/S 2021

Susan Fang is part of a new generation of designers who value both artistry and waste minimization in their designs. Using leftover fabrics from past collections to create one-of-a-kind beaded accessories and free-flowing "air-weaved" clothes, the young designer appears confident in the direction her critically acclaimed label is heading. A graduate from Central Saint Martins in London, England, Fang strives for sustainability in her brand. 

The Making of Fang’s Ethereal Design Technique

Autumn/Winter 2018 Susan Fang Fashion CollectionSusan Fang Official Website – A/W 2018

As the Pandemic occurred and ethical concerns around consumption grew, this designer reeled back to Mother Nature and created a sustainable garment crafting technique called airborne and air weave, which requires artisan craftsmanship. After she graduated from Central Saint Martin, Susan Fang developed her own version of an air weave technique to make her garments flow freely without being limited by the human body sizes. Her main goal is to produce silhouettes that can fit comfortably on the body through any consumer shape, size, or movements.

Fang’s womenswear designs use polyester for its weightlessness. That combined with her air weave technique results in a voluminous fabric that can be quickly shoved into or pulled out of a traveling case without ironing. In a 2018 interview with 1granary, Susan Fang stated that, "Her fabrics never wrinkle and can stretch to any size. It is compact and easy to take with you when you travel." Also, according to this Hypebae article, Susan and her team keep the farmer's mindset to fuel creativity and maintain sustainability.

In Fang’s recent Shanghai SS22 collection, she experimented with using old P&G bottles recycled into plastic bags. In addition, she coined another new fabric technique called AIR FLOWER that she used to make the flowers for her SS22 collection. For this, she cut printed tulle (colored squares and rose printed fabric) into strips of different widths and laid it out to create three-dimensional and intricate fabric manipulations. Each of her resulting showpieces took 1-2 weeks to be handmade. We can acknowledge these dresses as couture pieces made from merging old and new techniques.

Reeling Back to Nature and Craftsmanship

Autumn/Winter 2021 Susan Fang Fashion CollectionSusan Fang Official Website – A/W 2021

The Susan Fang brand's embrace of traditional beadwork also showcases the beauty of human beings and the nature surrounding us. Fang uses a water droplet glass bead accessories style to accent her clothes. Glass beading has been with us for more than a century. Fang's objective in using it is to go beyond the world of design to portray a mirage of artistic illusions, not to follow a trend, style, or even an aesthetic by limiting the genre. Her focus on textile innovation and establishing sustainable design and production techniques highlights the continued importance of artisanal craftsmanship and expertise, especially for newer, emerging  designers seeking to make their mark.

The complexity of Fang’s fanciful designs doesn’t stop at her beadwork. It can sometimes take up to 21 days to weave just one meter of Fang’s unique fabric. Seven people weaving together for three days will result in a finished garment if made with the specialized machine board that Fang’s artisans created. Fang’s team uses this board to knit and weave her patterns directly. These fabrics show the beauty of repetition through the textile. Some of her visuals include scanned rocks from Brighton, surface waves from stones, and old magazine paper as well. She also uses homegrown flowers that she spray-paints onto her lighter, polyester fabric. On her company's Instagram, she recently explained how, in her SS2 collection, she expanded her accessories line using 3D technology to make a 3D printed bubble for a water bag. Her technique showcases the merging of the old and new, creating a remarkable fairy tale in the fashion industry. 

Fang’s Impact on the Fashion Industry

A/W 2021 Susan Fang Fashion CollectionSusan Fang Official Website – A/W 2021

The fashion industry is facing essential changes today. Technology has advanced, and our society has changed how we connect to everyone across the globe. Consumers are more knowledgeable and follow along primarily with only the brands that share their values. Amid technological advancement, the fashion industry is still the second largest industry polluter worldwide. For new designers, affording massive production orders and using advanced technology proves harder and more prohibitively expensive than for larger, more established brands. In response to the instability of financing an emerging fashion label, as compared to the financing available for big corporations like Zara and H&M, Fang encourages other motivated new designers to take a page from her book, and start their first apparel brand team with family members or other affordable and ethical labor options instead of adding to the exploitation of low wage manufacturers. Small, more handmade collections also afford designers better quality control, which is key to keeping customers like Fang’s raving.

Investing in artisanal manufacturing techniques is time-consuming, but cost-wise it works for new designers better than using advanced machines with eye-popping price tags. 

Fang is a fashion designer who younger designers can look to and see how to combine both traditional and modern design techniques. This not only helps to build a brand's uniqueness and artistic mindset in a society with values at odds with fast fashion, but it also promotes the Slow Fashion Movement. Creating clothes that customers can wear at any size is also a tactic that helps Fang’s, and will help other designers’, wares remain relevant year long, for wearability in all seasons.

Cover / Featured image from Susan Fang Official Website – A/W 2018
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