Pan Jin is a designer making her mark in fashion industry through her uniquely sensitive and intimate collections. Hailing from China and currently based in New York City, her point of view is refreshingly different. IRK’s Editor-in Chief Mia Macfarlane caught up with Pan to learn more about her debut collection.
Where did you grow up? Tell us about your background and family life.
I grew up in Hangzhou, China and moved to Bay Area on my own for high school at the age of 15. I am currently based in New York City.
Where did you study?
I had the privilege of studying fashion design at one of the premier fashion schools in the world, Parsons School of Design, where I earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Fashion Apparel Design, and at the same time gained exposure to New York’s fashion scene.
What sparked your interest to go into fashion?
I have always had an artistic side, but I was not sure what I would do with it until just before college. After my admission to Parsons, I developed an insatiable curiousness about the fashion industry. In New York, I became exposed to highly respected fashion figures and embraced design as an outlet to express myself artistically, making the garment and the human form my canvas.
What influences have inspired your designs?
When I was younger, I was obsessed with writing short stories and poems. I documented events or details in life and expanded upon mundane emotions with abstract metaphors. I remember impressing my literature teachers with my sensitive and perceptive writing style, which was later naturally evolved into my current design language.
What stands out from your debut collection are intricate layering and original details and fabric choices. What is your creative process?
Design is truly a language for me. The human form and fabrics are my canvas. I relish every step in my design process.I begin by gathering visually inspirational images and collage them to create an overall narrative. In this particular collection, I drew sketches over photos of bodies and muslins, in exploration of the relationship between these two subjects.
I journal my design process so that I can go back to it for inspiration. Examples of my design process and inspiration are posted on my Behance and Instagram (@Alk_Ali) pages.
Your mesmerizing designs are fashion-forward and have attracted the attention of fashion critics and stylists alike. What inspired your pieces and what work are you most proud of?
I am grateful that my design vision has earned notice from the fashion elite. I was especially honored to get the Black Sheep designation from Not Just A Label. This kind of recognition itself is a great inspiration for me to trust my vision and my artistic voice. I am inspired by photography and films. It starts there visually and that helps set the mood. My collections are a unique interpretation of that. My Intimacy is Space was inspired by a set of photography by Photographer Hal, who put couples in vacuum sealed packs, naked and clothed. The claustrophobic depictions of love and human relations really impressed me, and led me to explore the communication between humans and clothes. I am very proud of my work at R13, where I worked on the development of 11 mainline collections and 4 runway collections. During this time, I worked with renowned stylists such as Edward Enninful (editor-in-chief of British Vogue) and Camilla Nickerson (acclaimed editor at Vogue). The collections were well received by top fashion publications. It doesn’t get better than this for a designer.
Who are your favorite artists?
While it’s difficult to narrow it down, some of my favorites include Japanese photographer Rinko Kawaguchi, Taiwanese-American illustrator James Jean, and fashion photographers Mark Borthwick and Colin Dodgson.
You have successfully designed menswear and womenswear. What is the key to your success in designing pieces that have both originality and broad appeal?
I have to credit my early success to the technical training I received at Parsons, learning from widely recognized designers with years of field experience and success. I have also had the opportunity to apply my skills through my work at some of the most highly regarded design houses in the industry, including The Row, Once We Were Fiends, and R13.
I think both men’s and women’s clothes are inter-related, and should complement each other. I design looks that embrace figures but are not stereotypically feminine or masculine.
Who is the ideal Pan Jin client, and what kind of women and men you would like to dress?
I try to make clothes that bridge the artful and conceptual into something that feels easy and wearable. My goal is to design approachable clothes that make almost anyone feel like they could be my client. My designs have a unique approach melds leisure, comfort and luxury to create a relaxed but sophisticated look has strongly influenced my own aesthetic.
How does New York City influence your creativity?
New York is so complex on its own that it’s inclusive and exclusive at the same time, which means my design identity has to constantly evolve. My tenure with R13, a renowned luxury brand, has greatly influenced my design sensibilities. I became hyper-aware of the market and fashion scene as an industry, instead of just a concept learned in school.
New York has been critical to my successes as a designer because it offers me such proximity to the elite of the fashion industry. I am surrounded by inspiration in the sights, sounds and textures of the city, but I am also always exposed to fashion and art here. Whether on billboards, museums or on bodies walking down the street. I am in touch with the pulse of fashion and its daily expressions in the New York landscape.