PHOTOS: MICHAEL SCHWARTZ/DE FACTO INC. GROOMING: YACINE DIALLO/DEFACTO INC. PHOTO ASSISTANT: SLOAN LAURITS. STYLING ASSISTANTS: TAN PREM-ON, LUOAN LIN, AND GABRIELLE WONG. DIGITAL TECHNICIAN: CINDY LEAF. MODELS: COLE FARR/FORD MODELS AND JOHN HEIN/FORD MODELS. SPECIAL THANKS: FAST ASHLEYS AND SAM DOERFLER.
For menswear designer Michael Yip, whose budding label is called K’Yan Yip, safety and preservation are central themes. In his last collection, the soon-to-be Parsons graduate looked to beetles and samurai armor. His six-look, 16-piece thesis collection is inspired by baroque religious imagery—from gargoyles (the charcoal grey, black palette, and felt material) to the carvings on church columns (a recurring embossed motif is prominently featured on a long-sleeved top, the back of an open jacket, and the side of a pair of layered trousers) to ecclesiastical garments (reflected in the drape and shape of the clothing). “I’m really insecure in a lot of things I do, so I really want to be protected,” Yip explains. “I feel quite protected when I’m in the presence of gargoyles.”
“I like to call myself a pre-modernist designer,” Yip continues. “The post-modernist designer is like Raf Simons or Craig Green—they take an idea and run with it, rather than a concept.” Pre-modernists, he explains, focus on concept: “Like Alexander McQueen and Nicolas Ghesquiere back in the heyday of 2007, 8, 9.”
This month, Yip, who will turn 22 in a few weeks and is extremely affable in person, will graduate from Parsons’ menswear program and he’s in a pretty enviable position. During his time at school, he’s received prizes and grants from Hugo Boss, Swarovski, and Linea Pella, and is nominated for his university’s “Menswear Designer of the Year” award.
HOMETOWN: I was born in Hong Kong and then moved to Vancouver when I was eight.
ARTISTIC BEGINNINGS: My parents aren’t too artistic, but my mom did teach me how to draw when I was three or four. My dad also folded origami. He would write letters to me once in a while and with a little origami piece in the letter.
ENTRY INTO FASHION: There was this TV show that was on in Hong Kong about fashion designers, and I thought it was so exciting how you could get something from paper to a real product in so little time. I started designing when I was in high school. I made a few things for my friends and then there was a fashion show at the end of the year. That was really thrilling. There was a lot of adrenaline going.
THE COLLECTION: When I saw McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2009 collection, that’s when I really started to look into fashion rather than just knowing about fashion. He came out at the end in a big bunny costume. That collection really got me—the makeup was kind of disturbing with the hair stuck onto the face; it kind of triggered this darkness in me.
BOYS VS. GIRLS: I do still have a really big interest in womenswear; I actually started out in womenswear, but during my junior year I made a switch where I did both men’s and women’s. My professor allowed me to pursue menswear in my womenswear class, so I got a lot more creativity and a lot more freedom to do what I wanted to do. In a menswear class, it would be very shirt, button-up, trousers, blazers, which I didn’t want to do.
INTERNSHIPS: I interned at Rochambeau and Sandy Liang. I loved both my internships; I learned so much. Both of them had very different ways of working. Rochambeau was really hands-on; Sandy was more how to create an image. It was really collaborative. I wanted to intern at smaller companies to get the hang of how the whole company was run. I’ve heard that at a lot of bigger companies, you do really menial tasks—you sort fabric for the whole internship. I didn’t want to do that. At the end of the day, it’s just going to be a big name on a résumé rather than me really trying to get the most out of my internship.
CINEMATIC INSPIRATIONS: Usually, I get a hint of idea from movies. For my gargoyles, I actually watched I, Frankenstein, which was not very well received, but I quite enjoyed it. If I wasn’t going to do fashion, I would do concept design for movies—I think my interest in movies fuels me to create a whole world with my collections rather than just clothes.
I’m really drawn to Disney movies. The movie I watch all the time is Cinderella, the 1997 version with Brandy and Whitney Houston. It’s amazing. It’s a ridiculous movie, but it’s really good. It doesn’t really inspire me in the sense of design, but it brings me into a really happy mood and then through that I can really hone in on what I want to design. Recently, I rewatched Silence of the Lambs. I’m really inspired by Hannibal Lecter’s character, so maybe there’s something going on with that in a future collection. Even though I’m so cheerful and bubbly, I think I definitely have a dark side in me—I’m really drawn to darker things and more macabre themes, which I find interesting with the contrast of my personality.
FAVORITE MENSWEAR DESIGNERS: I think Craig Green is amazing. He’s really smart because he can think in an editorial way, but the clothing is actually quite commercial. When it’s coming down the runway, he unties all the ties, and it kind of opens up, but it’s really wearable when you tie everything together. Christopher Shannon is amazing as well—with the garbage bag knitted sweaters. Those two are definitely the newer menswear designers I’m drawn to.
FOR MORE ON K’YAN YIP, VISIT THE LABEL’S WEBSITE.