China Underground > China Trends: Emerging fashion trends in China > Su Hanwei: Sustainable Elegance by Maison de Hoe, Interview

Su Hanwei: Sustainable Elegance by Maison de Hoe, Interview

Fashion Designer Creating Cultural Bridges Between Diverse Styles, Narrated with Elegance and a Focus on Sustainability.

Su Hanwei, a fashion designer based in New York, pursued her studies at Parsons School of Design. She launched her first collection under her label, Maison de Hoe, at New York Fashion Week in February 2023, and recently showcased her designs at Paris Fashion Week 2024. With Maison de Hoe, she masterfully combines the intricate mosaic of Chinese cultural heritage with contemporary fashion narratives, creating garments that balance chaos with beauty and transform the mundane into unique narrative pieces. Su is committed to exploring environmentally impactful clothing designs, advocating for a more sustainable fashion industry. She engages in discussions that intertwine tradition with modernity, focusing keenly on rights, equality, sustainability, and humanitarian issues. Her contributions have been recognized in fashion magazines, and she has received the Tishman Fund for Excellence in Climate, Environmental Justice, and Sustainability. Furthermore, Su has reached the finals of the IYDC Sustainable Fashion Competition, underscoring her commitment to sustainable design practices.

Su Hanwei’s official website & Instagram

Have you always had a clear career as a fashion designer since your childhood? How and when did you get into fashion design?

My passion for creativity was never confined to a single medium; it sprawled across the vast landscape of art and design, capturing my imagination long before I fully comprehended its impact. My foray into fashion design crystallized at 16 during an international exhibition in China, where my designs were publicly showcased for the first time. This pivotal moment, along with my education at Parsons—the pinnacle of fashion design schools in the US—smoothly transitioned me into the professional realm of fashion design upon graduation. In essence, my journey into fashion design was less about a single moment of decision and more about a series of revelations and experiences that guided me towards this path.

What does fashion mean to you? Who has influenced you as a person and as a creative?

To me, fashion is an intimate form of communication, a visual language that allows me to express my innermost thoughts, feelings, and observations about the world. It transcends the mere concept of clothing as a necessity, evolving into a form of art and personal expression that mirrors the complexities of human emotion and societal dynamics. My influences stem less from singular famous personalities and more from the collective essence of everyday people, whose fashion choices reflect their personal stories, societal roles, and cultural backgrounds. These observations serve as a continuous source of inspiration, reminding me that fashion is a powerful medium for reflecting and shaping our understanding of identity and community.

How does Maison de Hoe come to life? What is the philosophy behind it? What were the biggest challenges you encountered at the beginning?

Maison de Hoe emerged from a desire to blend the rich tapestry of Chinese cultural heritage with contemporary fashion narratives, focusing on the dynamic interplay between tradition and modernity. Our debut at the New York Fashion Week in February 2023, in collaboration with Chinese rockstar LiangLong, marked the realization of this vision. The brand’s philosophy, “Crafting the Future from China’s Heartbeat and Feminine Strength,” reflects our commitment to celebrating the resilience and elegance inherent in our dual heritage. The journey was challenging, particularly without a roadmap for brand building, but it was these very challenges that honed our focus and refined our approach to creating a brand that stands as a testament to the beauty of cultural convergence and the power of fashion as a form of storytelling.

What are your sources of inspiration, and what is the creative process behind it?

My inspiration stems from a deep engagement with the authentic voices and narratives within Chinese contemporary grunge culture, juxtaposed with the universal theme of feminine strength. This involves immersive research, including exploring archives, documentaries, and photography, to capture the essence of our cultural identity and societal trends. The creative process is iterative, involving sketching, fabric experimentation, and constant refinement, to ensure each collection not only tells a story but resonates on a personal level with our audience. It’s about finding balance in the chaos and beauty in the mundane, turning each garment into a narrative piece that speaks volumes about our cultural journey and the timeless elegance of strength and resilience.

You debuted your first collection during the New York Fashion Week in February 2023.  What did it represent for you? Can you share this experience with us?
 
Presenting our first collection at New York Fashion Week was a monumental achievement for me and Maison de Hoe, marking our transition from concept to reality. It was an affirmation of our brand’s vision and a celebration of the journey thus far. The experience was both surreal and chaotic, embodying the frenetic energy of the fashion world while highlighting the significance of our work being recognized on such a prestigious platform. It was not just a debut but a declaration of our brand’s identity and aspirations, an opportunity to showcase our commitment to blending cultural heritage with contemporary fashion in a way that speaks to a global audience.

Addressing climate change and pollution represents a significant challenge. A new sustainability is a top priority, primarily in the fashion industry. Can you tell us about your relationship with the materials and fabrics you select for your collections?

Sustainability is at the heart of Maison de Hoe, guiding our selection of materials and fabrics to ensure they align with our commitment to environmental responsibility. We prioritize natural and dead-stock fabrics that resonate with our aesthetic themes while minimizing our ecological footprint. Our approach to sourcing unique, recycled buttons from manufacturers and repurposing old clothing is a testament to our dedication to sustainability. These efforts, though small in the grand scheme, are steps towards a larger goal of creating a sustainable fashion ecosystem that values resourcefulness and innovation. We’re actively exploring more sustainable practices, such as zero-waste pattern making, to further reduce our impact and lead by example in the industry.

How has the sustainable fashion industry evolved over the years? What accomplishments have been made, and what notable challenges remain to be addressed?

Over the years, the sustainable fashion industry has seen remarkable advancements, from embracing transparency to innovating with eco-friendly materials. Brands have started to prioritize the entire lifecycle of their products, aiming for a circular economy where garments are reused, recycled, or composted, thereby minimizing waste. The adoption of regenerative agricultural practices for natural fibers has also marked a significant step towards sustainability, emphasizing the restoration of ecosystems.

However, notable challenges persist. The scalability of sustainable practices remains a hurdle, as the integration of eco-friendly materials and ethical labor practices often results in higher costs. Moreover, greenwashing poses a significant challenge, misleading consumers with false claims of sustainability. Additionally, the global fashion supply chain’s complexity makes it difficult to monitor and implement sustainable practices at every stage. Lastly, there’s a pressing need for consumer behavior change; the fast fashion model still dominates, fueled by the constant demand for new, cheap clothing.

Photographer @deanna.ll, MUA @go_ny_go_ny
Hair @mistermartinhair, Model Kaitlyn Cunningham

What are the primary obstacles to achieving sustainability in the fashion industry, in your view? Do you consider the ethical versus affordable dilemma to be one of the main challenges? Or, do you think misinformation and biases regarding the quality of zero-waste products play a significant role?

The journey toward sustainability in the fashion industry is fraught with obstacles. The ethical versus affordable dilemma is certainly a significant challenge; sustainable practices often come with higher costs, which can limit accessibility for the average consumer. Misinformation and biases about the quality and efficacy of sustainable and zero-waste products also hinder progress by creating skepticism among consumers.

Moreover, the complexity of the global supply chain, the need for technological advancement in sustainable materials, and the cultural shift required to move away from fast fashion consumption patterns all present significant barriers. Achieving sustainability is not only about adopting eco-friendly materials but also about changing the entire ecosystem of fashion—from production to consumption.

Consumers who support sustainable fashion and seek solutions are aware of the ‘greenwashing’ issue. How can they identify it? What are your thoughts on this issue?

Greenwashing is a significant issue in the sustainable fashion industry, complicating consumers’ efforts to make ethical choices. Identifying greenwashing involves scrutinizing brands’ claims for specific, substantiated information about their sustainability practices, looking for third-party certifications, and being wary of brands that only highlight one aspect of sustainability without addressing their overall impact.

My thoughts on greenwashing are that it not only misleads well-intentioned consumers but also undermines the integrity of the sustainable fashion movement. It’s crucial for there to be stricter regulations and standards to prevent greenwashing. Additionally, consumer education plays a vital role in combating this issue. As consumers become more knowledgeable and demanding regarding the authenticity of brands’ sustainability claims, the industry will be pressured to adopt genuinely sustainable practices.

How can customers be more responsible? How can they raise awareness? What advice would you give to them? 

Customers can foster sustainability in fashion by educating themselves about the industry’s environmental and social impacts, supporting ethical brands, investing in quality over quantity, and adopting mindful consumption habits. Raising awareness can be achieved through social media, discussions, and supporting campaigns that aim for industry reform.

My advice to consumers is to start small and focus on progress. Every sustainable choice, no matter how minor it seems, contributes to a larger change. By demanding transparency, supporting ethical practices, and opting for sustainable products, consumers can drive the industry towards a more sustainable future. Remember, change starts with individual actions, and collectively, we can make a significant impact.

Photos courtesy of Su Hanwei

Last Updated on 2024/03/31

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