LCFMA22: Reimagining Trauma with Youyin Wang
London College of Fashion's MA22 cohort showcases the breadth of talent that our students possess. Across the fields of visual communication, design and business, this year's set of students have taken inspiration from themes including gender fluidity, human connection and, from a sartorial perspective, innovative pattern cutting.
LCF Stories reached out to Youyin Wang, a MA Costume Design For Performance graduate. Youyin's work uses her struggle with childhood obesity as a point of interrogation, and inspiration for her stunning costumes.
Your work is deeply personal and draws from your experience of childhood obesity. What does reimagining trauma provide for you personally?
Trauma can really affect us a lot, both physically and psychologically. But trauma can only be healed by ourselves in the end. The best solution to this painful memory is to face it directly, not to run away from it.
At first, I didn't want anyone around me to say anything about obesity, and even I hid my old photos. But slowly, my surroundings changed, people changed, and my thoughts changed, and I began to face this trauma again. Reimagining trauma has given me more courage and made me realise my potential, as well as being a curing process for myself. It takes a lot of courage to turn things and experiences that you were once reluctant to face into designs and open them up to an audience.
When I re-imagine the trauma, I see my past in some of the objects. When looking for items with special meaning, the princess dresses worn by children when I was obese immediately came to mind, and this brought back memories of that period. The princess dress carries memories of some of the injustices suffered during that period - of discrimination, of isolation; of the painful experience of suffering from stomach problems as a result of dieting, but at the same time, the dress also recalls a good change in thinking about aesthetics.
What do you want audiences to take away from your work?
Although my work is based on personal experience, the story does not take place in my life alone. It was easy to see from the people I interviewed that almost everyone who was obese as a child or teenager would have had the same struggles as I did. Emotion can be evoked through design, even if that emotion is minimal response to the visual medium.
I hope that the viewer will at least start thinking and talking about the topic of body image. The audience might be able to remember something that was once painful for them but has now become a valuable personal experience. If the audience has had the same story or is suffering from the same experience, I hope that my work will give them courage.
We love the way that the film portrays discomfort and liberation. Can you provide tips on how to express yourself through audiovisual work?
The first step is to identify several processes of physical and psychological change. The second is to find suitable narrative and breathy music that conveys the emotional changes. Finally, a professional performer is needed to complete the piece.
Body movement is also an important vehicle for conveying messages. If costumes can expose the complex and conflicting ways of human nature through performance, then body and dance are tools for evoking emotion through raw humanity. The theme of this project is already closely related to the body, and it is best to use the movement of the body to support the design, to convey the story and evoke emotion - the power of physical expression is far greater than any verbal expression.
Another important point for the film, of course, is editing. The pacing of the editing is also crucial and matching the music and the physical rhythm of the actors enhances the story of the film.
Do you have any particular highlights from your time on the course?
Our course required a lot of thinking and making. But to have my work selected for the final showcase and to be exhibited at the Fashion Space Gallery is my highlight from my time on the course! What I gained from MA Costume Design For Performance was not only a master's degree but more importantly a new way of thinking.