As one of the most prevalent creatives in Montreal’s design scene, Ying Gao’s conceptual fashion pieces are far more than garments; they render the body merely a carrier for intelligent constructions. Forever experimenting with technology, her work explores the relationship between spectator and clothing, posing the question: does an outfit only matter if someone else sees it?
Intertwining the latest developments into the garments, the materials detect movement and react to sound, touch and even gaze. This is part of a wider movement of clothing that responds to conversation, offering a back-and-forth rapport. For Gao, the space between the spectator and the piece is the subject of interest, rather than the fabrication itself. In this way, an outside perspective gives her projects meaning – she sees it as an exchange. “The people who wear the clothes are not important – they always remain inert.”
On average, Gao only produces two pieces a year, but they are still being displayed in museums some ten years after their creation. “My process is almost artisanal as I use my hands a lot.” This, she argues, is why her work is the opposite of fast fashion: “The objects that I create aren’t for consumption – I am here to question that idea. Of course, they can be worn but they are there to inspire and to move people emotionally.” The clothes highlight the divide between the wearer and the idea of ownership, pushed forward by consumerism. Gao aims to provoke questions, reflections and debate: “the fashion cycle is speeding up and it’s maddening. The idea of being ‘in fashion’ is obscene to me.”
A key theme of her wider practice is how identity is dependent on an outside perspective. The clothes react to an external stimulant to become animated. Is this a comment on how we, as humans, require interaction on an obsessive level? Gao thinks so. In these modern times, we seek stimulation more than ever, such as bright lights and gadgets. Perhaps it’s time to pay more attention to our surrounding environments and the expanses between us.
Looking to the future, Gao thinks about her next steps, toying with the theme of neurological disorders, but the idea is more abstract than anything she’s tackled before. Now in the process of writing her first book, it seems she’s turning towards more inward-looking analysis than spectacle.
For more information on the designer, click here.
To read more about Gao, find notes on adaptable fashion in Issue 72 of Aesthetica Magazine.
1. Ying Gao, Incertitudes.