Emerging designer Grace Ling on fashion, 3D technology

A former Central Saint Martins and Parsons with experience on labels like Thom Browne and The Row, Grace Ling is a promising designer using 3D technology to create unexpected silhouettes while keeping sustainability in mind.

With 3D printing, CAD and CGI at the heart of her design process, the Singaporean designer also draws inspiration from her background in sculpture and performance art. A combination of these different areas is what shapes Ling’s unique style which is showcased with structural clothing and statement accessories. Some of his notable works include a jacket detachment of a circular wall frame, a mesh card holder in the shape of a human, and a money Butt Bag.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has challenged many designers around the world, Ling has actually found days of self-isolation peaceful and inspiring. Read on to learn more about the young designer, her design philosophy, and her upcoming projects.

Tell us about your career as a fashion designer and how it led to the launch of your eponymous brand.

I always dreamed of having my own brand in New York, and now I do! I like being able to share my vision of the world through design. Before majoring in fashion, I studied sculpture and the performing arts. I also did modeling alongside. This combination fueled influence to create multidisciplinary designs. I am inspired by dystopian films, modern art and interior design. Later, I studied fashion at Parsons and Central Saint Martins, and had work experiences at Thom Browne and The Row. All my personal influences sprouted from the launch of my eponymous label.

How would you describe your style or aesthetic?

A sense of eccentric elegance and intelligent femininity. Absurd but sophisticated. I like things that are timeless but have a unique side.

You worked with sculptural silhouettes for your clothes. What is the inspiration behind these designs?

I sometimes find the color distracting. I think about shapes, shapes and sculptures, then I add color later. In form and structure, I see an unspoken and fanciful story of gestures and body language that can be told in different ways. I wanted to create biomorphic silhouettes through the distortion of human forms. For example, the Circle jacket has these “folded arms” sleeves. This is because I found it interesting that in social situations our arms were bent more often than not.

What about the design process? How do you incorporate technology and fashion into your collections, and how does sustainability come into play here?

The bags are 3D printed in New York and lined with leather in Italy. The combination of technology and traditional craft methods completes a GRACE LING product.

The core of my design and development largely involves 3D technology, CAD and CGI. This allows me to calculate the exact amount of materials needed to create an item so that we can create with zero waste. Thanks to CGI, I can also iterate carbon-free designs.

I remember photographing my products and I was like, “Wow, this looks exactly like my CGI rendering, do I even need to sample? It’s revolutionary for sustainability around fashion production and business systems that are perfect for change and progress.

Besides your clothes, your accessories have also generated a lot of interest for their unique designs. How did you end up taking the shapes of the human body and transforming them into everyday objects?

I would like to express my gratitude for everyone’s interest, I am so excited to see people wearing them! The human body is a language that transcends all cultures and all walks of life. I wanted to create witty and light humor without having to explain too much. I was first inspired by a psychological phenomenon often called “anthropomorphism”. It basically means assigning human characteristics to inanimate objects. From an absurd point of view, I wanted to see how inanimate sculptures can trigger an emotional response. This is also why the pot bag has “legs”. I want him to look almost alive. As for the human parts, they become an allegory of the “body” as bodily ornaments.

There is also something about the femininity of a body. Some jackets are heavily covered with little exposed skin, but there is a backpack hanging on the outside of the jacket. The buttocks are looked at, but separated from the wearer. It’s a way for me to show wit and playfulness through accessories while maintaining the sophistication and maturity of the clothes. There’s a weird sense of empowerment in there, it’s a different kind of sexy.

How did you experience this pandemic, being based in both Singapore and New York?

I had to steal, quarantine several times, and do a lot of swab testing. I’m not going to lie though, I enjoyed the quarantine. I found a strange feeling of peace during my forties. It allowed me to focus on my vision and to have clarity in my thoughts. Fourteen days of guaranteed solitude, it is a profound freedom. Singapore hotels were also kind enough to let me carry my giant industrial sewing machine and mannequins, which, to be fair, looked pretty hilarious at the time. When I was coming out of my 40s, I displayed my designs on my mannequins and the hotel staff applauded me. It was almost like a fashion show.

What are the things you look forward to for the rest of the year? Any upcoming projects that you can share?

Several celebrities have already requested my pieces, so I’m excited to share this very soon. I’m also currently working on a CGI movie collaboration on Butt Bags with a Paris-based CGI artist.

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