The next student featured in our Graduate Spotlight series is MA Fashion Artefact designer Biyuan Zhang from Beijing. Biyuan is a student who originally studied BA (Hons) Fashion Jewellery at LCF’s world renowned Cordwainers school, Golden Lane. After completing her BA, she wanted to explore her own individual style. Biyuan felt studying MA Fashion Artefact encouraged students to think outside the box and create their own style by having more creative freedom.

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Biyuan Zhang is a progression student who originally studied BA (Hons) Cordwainers Fashion Bags and Accessories: Product Design and Innovation before MA Fashion Artefact

What did you study MA Fashion Artefact at LCF? 

I chose MA Fashion Artefact because its the best course to take on beyond bachelor that is related to jewellery design. It’s more than just accessories and jewellery, studying an MA allows you to explore more materials. In BA you work a lot with mental works, you have more opportunities to explore materials with an MA. The course has a really good reputation, it’s pretty unique in the sense that no other course is similar, and it’s also got artefact in the name. The course is based on handcraft, so you focus craftsmanship instead of other research methods where you mainly work in 2D. It’s pretty crucial for designers to know how the process of making goods work, how the materials combined, you need to know how your design is going to be developed. This course is great as it allows designers to understand the whole process of making goods and artefacts.

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Biyuan’s collection is based on universal fetishism, it could be related to anything.

Tell us a little bit about your final collection? 

My final collection is based on fetishism in a material language. The collection is based on universal fetishism, it can be related to anything, it’s more like the language of fetishism, what material they use, and I’m reversing it in traditional craftsmanship techniques. I wanted to take it to a new level with fashion as it needs to be developed more and people in fashion should be discussing it and bringing it into design. My collection uses Chinese traditional bones, with the crazy Western liberal side of fetishism that doesn’t really exist in Chinese culture. These things are forbidden in China, so I’m mixing Chinese and Western culture together to hopefully make it more open-minded to Chinese people. My stuff isn’t obvious fetishism, it’s more in the language so people will perceive it differently.

Some people might not be familiar with the materials used in fetishisms, so they might not know what I’m designing and instead see it as a beautiful object. I hope making it this way might make it more acceptable for Chinese people to understand the whole fetishism thing and culture. I like reversing techniques, it’s a interesting way of using tricky materials like latex. I’m outsourcing the materials in China, it was suppose to be cheaper, but because of the reversing techniques and the big machines I’ve had to use means the whole project has been very expensive. It’s a bespoke piece that could almost go on display at an art gallery, but collection isn’t really useable.

What do you like most about your course? What have you found most challenging? 

The most challenging part of the course is making the artefacts yourself, and testing the materials by yourself. Many people in MA Fashion Artefact didn’t have any experience with the materials they wanted to use for their projects, we’ve kind of had to become masters of manipulating the material in a month. I never worked with leather before, I only started using the material six months ago, because my whole project is based on traditional leather craftsmanship, I’ve had to learn it fully like an expert. This part of the course is also the most interesting, it’s important for designers to understand the material, the more you know, the better you are at using it. It’s interesting finding out what the possibilities are for you to design, instead of just thinking out of nowhere. So the best thing about the course is also the most challenging, learning materials and becoming masters of that trade in a couple of months is very interesting.

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Biyuan Zhang at LCF’s Golden Lane studios developing one of her final pieces.

What would be your top three tips to prospective students? 

Manage your time, try to do everything early, test as much as possible in the beginning. You really can’t afford to waste anytime as it gets very hectic towards the end. Try to think through your design and concept, test out everything and make sure your not rushed. Also don’t be afraid of trying new materials, try to think outside of the box as much as possible, try new techniques and ideas. Make sure you very hardworking!

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Biyuan mixed Western culture with traditional Chinese for her final MA project.

What is your plan after you finish your MA?

I’m trying to develop my brand, maybe in the studio I use in China. I started my brand last year after finishing my BA, I haven’t been able to focus too much time on it during my MA. I managed to develop some ideas and I’m in the middle of sourcing the platform for me to sell my brand. I’m use to promoting my brand as a one of a kind piece, I now need to figure out how to market it. I was originally trying to promote my brand, I wanted to sell it somewhere that would help grow my brand commercially. I have more designs in my head, I’ve also been collaborating with different people and platforms. I’m also doing designs for brands, and customised jewellery for some people. I feel like there’s many directions for me to go, but I’d like to involve leather more in my brand and jewellery after my MA.