When Fashion Meets Art: An Interview With Up-And-Coming Chinese Artist Kim Xu in Dubai
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“So many fashion designers are taking their inspirations from artists, so why can’t artists take their inspiration from fashion designers as well?” Kim Xu, one of China’s up-and-coming artists postures to me during our recent interview at Harvey Nichols-Dubai. Xu, who was born and raised in Suzhou, China, fuses traditional Chinese watercolor techniques – a skill passed on by his grandfather – and Western oil-based techniques to create fashion-meets-art works inspired by the likes of fashion legends such as Alexander McQueen, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, and Peter Pilotto. Learn more about the artist’s thoughts on art and fashion, what Xu’s work and Harvey Nichols-Dubai share in common, and the inspiration behind his exclusive sketch for Savoir Flair in our interview below.
Welcome to Dubai! Have you been here before?
No, it’s my first time. We got in yesterday afternoon and the only thing we’ve really seen is the Mall of the Emirates.
I wanted to do something my heart was telling me to follow.
Can you share a bit about your unusual painting technique?
Originally I was studying traditional Chinese art with my grandfather. My parents left at a young age, so I grew up with my grandfather. In my family, each generation has seen artists. But in early China, art was considered a hobby, not a professional skill. My family would paint and write, but it was more of a lifestyle. When I was learning Chinese art I found it kind of boring at first. You know you have your grandfather telling you “do this, do this, do this”. I wanted to do something my heart was telling me to follow, so I went to college to learn fashion design. And it’s there that I realized so many fashion designers take their inspirations from artists. Why can’t artists take their inspiration from fashion designers as well? The color, the materials – it’s like a cocktail of combinations. And I’m very good at creating that cocktail.
So were you originally looking for a career in fashion?
I only went to one year of fashion school and then I quit. I knew I wanted to be an artist.
Who are some of the fashion designers that you have you been inspired by?
Dior. I love Alexander McQueen, but after he passed away I find it very interesting to follow Yohji Yamamoto. He’s not just a fashion designer, he’s an artist. His knowledge, his personality; he really shares something with the people.
One of your pieces is about Dubai. Since you haven’t been to Dubai before, how did you create this painting? What were some of your preconceptions about Dubai?
A few years ago, I made a piece about Shanghai called ‘City of a Billion Lights’. Shanghai is 24 hours; it’s a bling bling city. Dubai is like this for me as well. It moves fast and everything is happening all at once. The city is in a desert and it holds the dreams of people. Whether it’s Shanghai or Dubai, people come here with a dream in their heart.
I don’t sell my paintings, I sell a moment.
How did you end up exhibiting at Harvey Nichols-Dubai?
I’m not a typical artist. Usually you go to a gallery, you have a couple of cocktails, but for me, I don’t sell my paintings, I sell a moment, which is exactly what Harvey Nichols does as well. You can buy a beautiful dress everywhere. But it’s more than just selling a beautiful dress or piece of jewelry; it’s about selling a moment. I think it’s a very beautiful collaboration.
We really appreciate you working on an exclusive sketch for Savoir Flair. What’s the inspiration behind this sketch?
Nobody knows you like you know you, you know?