Glass meets accessory designer Youmeng Liu

Glass meets Youmeng Liu, a promising young accessory designer who has recently graduated from London College of Fashion (LCF).

Handbags have now become as throwaway as plastic shopping bags it really is no surprise all major UK retailers introduced the 5p shopping bag tax back in October. This is why it’s always a blessing when someone comes along who can invest a handbag, simple satchel, clutch or whatever you wish with a little bit of creativity and wonder.

At the age of 25, Youmeng Liu has recently graduated from LCF after studying the relatively unknown Fashion Artefact course, going on to even more recently launch her own accessories brand, Dream’s Code. We talked to Youmeng about her thought process behind incorporating ancient Chinese embroidery techniques into her production and other aspects of launching her brand.

You graduated from London College of Fashion last year, obtaining an MA in Fashion Artefact. Could you tell us a little bit more about the focus of this course and what you learnt during your time studying?
During my MA fashion Artefact course at LCF, I learned a lot of new techniques and gained many new ideas. One of the best things is I finally found I love leather more than fabric. My MA subject is called Alive Tile Cat, a subject connected with fashion and many other fields such as machine-based technology, the Internet, information control, mathematics and so on [see here].

The experience of cutting and sewing leather was so exciting. Especially when I worked in the leather workshop and combined the different materials with leather, it was really amazing for me to extend my skills from my BA interdisciplinary subject.

DREAMS-CODE-profile-1Dream’s Code Series I collection

 When did you know you wanted to go forward with establishing your own brand?
When I was in my second semester at the University of the Arts London (UAL), I realised how beautiful the combination of oriental folk culture and British leather is. I started to think about establishing my brand to deliver my thoughts towards fashion, art and culture.

After that, I pitched my business plan in the UAL SEE (Student Enterprise and Employability) competition, which provides a range of awards and funding opportunities to all UAL students. My designs and business idea were really well received in the competition so all of the professors decided to give me the endorsement to begin establishing my brand in London. So that was a great opportunity for me and I believed I would start to do the right thing at the right time.

Where does the idea of “dreams” come from, instead of just making your brand name eponymous?
The brand’s name, Dream’s Code and the brand’s logo, a ring consisting of Morse code, symbolises the romantic marriage between traditional oriental culture and British modern aesthetic taste. As the founder of Dream’s Code, Dreams means a lot to me.

My first name “Youmeng” means always dream. Dream’s Code for me is not only about the code for design, the code for style, the code for culture, but also about creating the code for every woman and man’s personal dream. For the culture of the brand, Dream’s Code is telling many romantic stories.

These stories take place among the amazing terraced rice fields of Yuanyang and the wonderful dreamland of Dali, existing among the winding mountains. The craftswomen are recording their lives and unique stories with embroidery and creating the dreamiest scenes for our customers.

DREAMS-CODE-profile-9Dream’s Code Series I collection

Your brand suggests a slightly new take on the accessories market. Where would you describe its position as a luxury accessory brand?
Dream’s Code is a bridge brand targeting the affordable, sustainable luxury market. What makes our products different is delicacy, small-scale manufacturing and uniqueness combining modern technology and traditional craftsmanship. Our goal is to create the most valuable design and to record the cultural background and story behind every piece of work. For me, luxury is an attitude.

For Dream’s Code, the real meaning of luxury is not the price; it is the strong emotion, feeling and attitude invested into the design.

Could you tell us a little bit more about the craft behind the bags?
The unique quality of the craftsmanship of the bags is the combination of embroidery and leather. The handcrafted embroidery techniques are varied: flat embroidery, plaited embroidery, knit embroidery, wool embroidery, crape embroidery, stretching embroidery, stitching embroidery, rolling embroidery, embroidery with split thread and sticking embroidery, 3D dimensional embroidery and so on.

Flat embroidery is the most commonly used method, as it’s simply flat and suitable for small figures; plaited embroidery consists of plaiting 8-12 colourful silk threads into a “braid”, circling it around and sewing it onto cloth; knit embroidery means to insert the needle into the cloth with a round thread and take out the needle; stitching embroidery is to regularly stitch all kinds of geometric figures and deformed flowers, birds, butterflies, etc.

Out of the craftsmanship, 3D double-sided embroidery is the most unique. I developed the technique from old Bai Minority people. To embroider the pattern from flat to three dimensional is quite time consuming. The amazing thing is the great visual effect and unique sense of touch the embroidery creates. Now I realise that I opened a door to a magical 3D world.

workspaceYoumeng Li’s workspace

When do you know one of your bags is complete?
I have a really high standard for judging the completion of each bag. Firstly, the embroidery must be delicate and aesthetically should reach the same high standard of the original design. Secondly, the completion of a bag is dependant on the craftsmanship of the entire bag, the sewing of the leather is also very important for the final product. The sewing should be really neat, accurate and artistic. Thirdly, I have a size and pattern criterion to check the final bags. A completed bag should pass all of the aesthetic standards and overall specification.


Dreams-Code-lookbook9Dream’s Code Series I collection

Are sustainable craft or sustainability sourced materials factors you take into consideration at Dream’s Code?
Yes, of course. For the craft, it’s not just one person who makes the products, our design combines traditional embroidery techniques with modern aesthetic theories. The designs not only inherit fantastic folk culture, but also endows the products with eternal vitality. The vivid and colourful accessories showcase the wonderful craftsmanship of the embroidery technicians.

It’m cooperating with folk artists to create the new designs and patterns and the embroidery workshop are also based in my hometown. All of the members of my workshop are older minorities, only they can produce such amazing work. This guarantees the high quality and sustainability of the craft.

And for the materials, Dream’s Code is using high end British and Italian leather, such as English bridle leather, panel hide, dressed calf, shadow hide, pig suede and vegetable tanned sheepskin which have great quality and colour. The upscale leather industry which secures the leather for the brand ensured the sustainability of materials.

workspace2Youmeng Li at work

As it is such a limitless source of inspiration to you, do you ever find yourself missing China when you are in London?
I love my hometown; one of the biggest reasons is because I have a particular passion for the culture and art. When I’m in London, I can also find a lot of resources and get the inspiration from many places like museums, galleries, libraries and so on.

So I can always find the similarities and identities of different cultures backgrounds and immerse myself in them instead of missing my hometown.

workspace3Youmeng Lit’s fashion illustrations

And how often do you return?
I go back to China every six months to visit my family, the artists and see new places and to do the new designs in my embroidery workshop.

What is going to be your next step after this interview?
I’m going to be doing promotion and marketing, to find celebrities for the brand and develop a social media presence. And also, to continually cooperate with online fashion platform’s and promote awareness of the brand.

by Liam Feltham

Images courtesy of Youmeng Li

To find out more about Dream’s Code go here


About The Author

Glass Online fashion writer

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