Texprint alumna’s story: Momo Wang, Museum of Friendship
10 December 2014 by Jainnie Cho in Alumni Stories, Fashion
Alumna Momo Wang has progressed quickly and launched her own womenswear label since her time with Texprint in 2011. We spoke to her in London.
Though trained in textile design, Momo prefers to think beyond the individual textile, constructing garments from colourful fabric scraps she finds in random places, including night markets from her hometown back in China. Her works are an intricate mingling of mismatched fabrics and techniques, including PVC with pearl embellishments, and crocheted strips of potato sacks.
On the day of our interview, her tiny frame is buried under a loosely woven orange turtleneck. Wang’s studio has a folksy, down home feel, with doll heads and cat pictures as decoration.
After attending the National Opera School in Beijing to study Peking opera, calligraphy and traditional Chinese art, Wang won a place on the BA Fashion Textiles course at Central Saint Martins in London. After winning joint second place in 2011 in the L'Óreal Professional Young Talent Award for her student collection, Wang was interviewed and selected for Texprint and showcased her collection with Texprint at Indigo at Premiere Vision. She went on to found her own label, Museum of Friendship and is now in the midst of making her seventh collection.
The young designer stresses that the most important element of her designs is that her friends and family are involved. Skimming through her past lookbooks, she points out, “these are all knots and stitches that my friends helped out with. These ceramic beads were made by my father. My family and friends create different parts of my garments and I put them together,” she says. “I want to keep memories in my clothes. When I see the clothes, I can think about what I have been through and who helped me create.”
How did Texprint help your career?
When I was selected for Texprint, I didn’t know how to sell yet. All young designers are like that – they know how to create but don’t know how to sell their work. The Première Vision experience was really interesting for me. I got to talk to people from super huge brands including H&M and Nike. It was great exposure in a short time for a young designer like myself.
You didn’t grow up in a big city. What was your childhood like?
I was born in a really small city called Zhinzhou and lived there until I was 17. Then I went to Beijing for college. It was my first time in a big city and I studied for a major called Intercultural Communication at the National Opera School. I learnt about Peking opera, calligraphy, and history of traditional Chinese art. I got loads of inspiration on colors, from the old costumes in the operas and also came to know lots of interesting artists in Asia.
My father is a calligrapher and artist in Chinese painting and seal making. I really like traditional culture in China. My mother was a journalist in a newspaper in my hometown but she really likes making clothes. When I was really young, she always made my clothes… This was a really deep influence for me in becoming a fashion designer.
The name of your label is quite distinctive. How did you come up with that?
I am friendly with a gallery director who has a space near Dover Street Market in London. One day he had just come back from North Korea doing an art project there. He told me that while there, he went to an interesting place called the Museum of Friendship. Basically, the museum exhibits all these gifts that people gave to North Koreans, like items from the 60s onto 90s, from different countries. It’s kind of propaganda stuff, as they are showing people that they have friendships outside. I thought it was a really good name but it was quite tricky that the museum is in North Korea! But the meaning is, people putting out gifts in the museum to keep alive the meaning of friendship.
What did your graduate collection for Central Saint Martins look like?
My graduate collection was all about handcraft. I don’t use a lot of sewing machines and I use my hands to sew and crochet. I really want my friends and family to be involved in my collections so they create different parts of my garments and then I put them together.
The first collection I made was about my memories of the old Central Saint Martins college building. That’s why I used cloth I found in the studios. I wanted to keep the memories of CSM in my clothes.
And your second collection?
After graduation, the second collection was about my hometown, Zhinzhou. I went to the markets there and bought old fabrics to create the garments. I created upcycled clothes from these fabrics by redoing them. The fabrics I bought from Zhinzhou were old farmers’ clothes that kept them warm during the cold winters there. Read about this collection.
How does being Chinese play into your creations?
The Chinese influence in my work comes naturally. This is my identity. What is most important for designers and for people who create things is that they don’t forget their identity. I appreciate the 17 years I lived in my hometown. Nobody else has that experience so I should remember. Childhood is so important – you can find your direction from your roots. I don’t try to deliberately put Chinese elements in my clothes but I think it comes out naturally.
Besides fashion, what are you interested in?
I want to do a film/art project about my hometown soon. I would like to go back to my hometown and show my clothing at a booth at the night market there. I want to film the reactions of people when they see the clothes and put it together as an art project. It would be me saying I’m an international designer, travelling all around the world but I’m also a local girl from this town. It’s funny because I feel I don’t belong to one place now. My hometown is quite exotic for me now – we have a distance from each other.
Can you tell us a little about your next Museum of Friendship collection for A/W 15?
It is called Iceland Saga. It’s about my trip there to visit my friend who moved there for good after ten years in London. She’s an artist and wanted to concentrate on painting – it’s really romantic and brave that she did that.
I really like Reykjavik. I took loads of pictures of the landscape, the lagoons, the architecture, etc. I’ve also been looking at outdoor wear in Iceland. Because it’s so cold there, they always wear functional clothes. I never used outdoor clothing fabric because it’s quite difficult to make them look pretty – you know, some outdoor wear is ugly, for older men going hiking. I feel though, if I can make a nice print and silhouette showing curves a bit, it will be nice. Maybe girls can wear it for everyday.
I always want to do something contradictory – sportswear that is feminine, gangster look that a teenage girl might wear. It will be really interesting to combine lace with outdoor wear or other feminine, cute stuff. I’m planning on showing the collection in showrooms during London Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week early in 2015.
Momo visiting the Texprint stand at Intertextile Shanghai, October 2014