Claudia Li first sought a career in painting—her father is an art dealer, after all. But once she discovered her love for fashion, she went on to study fashion design at Central Saint Martins and then began her career working for Brandon Maxwell under Haus of Gaga and JW Anderson. “I was 27 and I wanted to start building something of my own before I turned 30,” Li says. “When I was with JW Anderson, he let me do what I was good at—which I liked—so I kind of do that now with the people I work with. People need to enjoy their jobs that they’re good at, and when people are happy they do much better.”
According to Li, the faith she places in her team of designers is something she thinks would be unsurprising to fans of her work. “I always say “we”—for interviews I always say “we did this” or “we did that,” because it’s a team effort. I don’t have ten arms!” she says.
The undertone of each collection—a team effort—is steady, yet for each season Li introduces a fresh source of inspiration—like for Spring 2018. “I was thinking back to a time when I felt brave and jumped into things, and that was when I was a kid. When you’re a child you touch everything, go into random places—and when you’re an adult you [can go back to that] when you dream,” she explains. “We researched dreams, surrealism, and [drew inspiration from] Akira Kurosawa’s short films “Dreams,”” Li says. Bright yellow tulips and pink goat’s beard are sprinkled amongst tones of navy, which evoke the darker parts of one subconscious moments.
So what would her fashion following be surprised to learn? “I actually try to have a life,” she says with a lighthearted chuckle. “Everybody that works with me has a life—I feel like you need to. I used to be crazy, didn’t have a life and would go home at midnight and woke up at eight to do it again.” The shortened days, she says, have also helped to consolidate and prioritize the work: Li might be in the studio ‘only’ during normal working hours, but you can bet it’s a time devoted solely to productivity.
Click through to see a day in the life of designer Claudia Li.