By Ines Matsika THE FASION STORIES
It is one of the names that make the buzz during Paris Fashion Week. Dawei Sun, a Chinese fashion desinger , launched his label Dawei in 2016 and has been rocking the catwalks in the capital for two years. At 38, this Parisian lover is known for his fashion. Very architectural. Former artistic director of Cacharel with his partner Ling Liu, he confronts in his brand a poetic spirit – stemming from his past experiences – with deconstructed lines and couture accents. A few days before his fashion show, we meet him in his design studio where a calm and studious atmosphere reigns. Dawei is all set to deliver his nuanced vision of women. Youthful allure and laughing eye: the rising star reveals a rich journey, at the crossroads of China and France.
You were born and raised in China. Where does your taste for fashion come from?
I come from a military family. When I was young boy, I was surrounded by people wearing uniforms. I was really impressed by this habit which tends to homogenize a group of individuals. It fed my thinking on clothing very early on and certainly sparked a desire to take the opposite view, by creating outfits that reflect people’s personalities.
What motivated your arrival in Paris and how did you view French fashion?
After studying Fine Arts in China, I came to Paris at the age of 20. I was drawn to this city rich in history, culture, and the epicenter of fashion. Paris keeps a special aura. There is a couture tradition here that is dear to me. I trained at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. There I learned techniques that are still at the heart of my creations.
Before going solo, you created the Belle Ninon brand with Ling Liu that you developed until he left for China. What is the difference between the two projects?
Belle Ninon was a very Parisian brand, right down to its name which was a nod to 17th century courtesan Ninon De Lenclos. With Ling, we imagined an elegant and feminine wardrobe. When I started my own label, I expressed more of my personal tastes: urban, sportswear, couture influence and above all minimalism. In my daily life, I have a strong taste for simplicity. My fantasy is to live in an apartment that would have a bed, a table and that’s it
Still with Ling Liu, you were the artistic directors of Cacharel from 2011 to 2013. What did you inject into the brand and what are the historical codes with which you played?
Cacharel is a solar, romantic brand, over which hovers a young girl’s spirit. It was a very new world to me. I obviously seized on the strong archives of the house, such as liberty and the color schemes, which I revisited. Working with color was, moreover, a new exercise that converted me to strong tones. I did not want to make a revolution within Cacharel. On the contrary, I have kept everything that makes it fresh.
How has this experience made you evolve?
At Cacharel, I was not an artistic director isolated in his ivory tower (laughs). When I took up my post, Jean Bousquet – former mayor of Nîmes and founder of the brand – had signed a licensing contract with the Italian group Aeffe. The creation was in Paris but we relied on the group’s technical teams for the marketing and distribution of the brand. So I benefited from a very elaborate industrial structure. I was constantly in touch with the merchandisers and the product managers. I strengthened my skills on brand development, in all its aspects. When I started Dawei, I was much more armed.
Dawei collections are developed in your atelier in Beijing. How do you deal with prejudices about “Made in China”?
It’s a picture that is cracking. It is undeniable that mass and low-quality manufacturing had developed in the country, driven by Western brands seeking to reduce their costs. But the situation has changed a lot. There is excellent work in China that I promote through my line. I have a whole network there and the workmanship is impeccable.
Where do your tastes for the volume and stripes that characterize the brand come from?
The stripes are a nod to the silhouettes of military sailors, who were, as I said, many in my family. The volumes illustrate my taste for architecture. I try to build the garment with different cuts each time to surpass myself and also surprise myself. I apply the principles of sewing that I have mastered, and then twist them. This gives quite surprising silhouettes. This experimental approach is my signature touch.
Your creations are also distinguished by their play of materials …
I select them mainly in Italy for their undeniable quality. I like nervous and fairly technical materials. For the Fall Winter 20 collection I designed a capsule for the Italian brand Cashmere Flakes consisting of 10 pieces. This label has developed a fair and sustainable process around cashmere. It is sourced in Mongolia on a very short circuit. Cashmere yarn is used in the padding of down jackets and sleeves according to a particular system. We worked on knitted and cashmere models, made a down jacket and padded pieces according to their technique. It was very interesting to apply their ingenious process.
You’ve been doing fashion shows for two years. How do you experience this exercise and what has it brought to your brand?
Catwalks help to convey a strong brand image. They obviously bring their share of stress and speed, but I’m one of those who thinks they are still useful today.
Dawei’s fashion heritage
Your first fashion emotion
I worked at Dior during John Galliano’s time. It was by his side that I became a true fashion professional. He opened my eye. He is a man who loves different cultures and he taught me to be curious. Since then, I like to be surprised and inspired by other worlds.
A character around you who has influenced your style
It’s my entire family that inspired me. When I was young, China was still a fairly closed country. Although in the military, my parents were open-minded enough to allow me to dream of fashion. They are intellectuals, keen on literature and history. They accepted that their only son would embark on a creative profession when my military career was all mapped out.
A smell linked to a fashion memory
Orange blossom! I don’t know why I associate this scent with fashion, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind . There is also the smell of cotton canvas. When I was a student at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, we often ironed this material and it gave off a special smell.
The artists who forged your taste for beauty
Japanese architect Tadao Ando is doing a wonderful job. I am touched by his sense of purity. Regarding beauty, I find it absolutely everywhere, even in very simple everyday things. I don’t necessarily feel the need to own what I find beautiful. I just have to look at it to be overwhelmed.