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Child’s play: RMIT international student Li-Anne Kuek goes to fashion week

Jess Pang

Mon Sep 26 2011

Li-Anne Kuek

RMIT international student and final-year fashion debutant Li-Anne Kuek makes it to the Melbourne Spring Fashion Week with her fashion cross-toy hybrid. Jessica Pang reports.

This year’s Melbourne Spring Fashion Week wasn’t all about the big brand names and celebrity designers.

At No Vacancy Gallery, the MSFW RMIT Student Exhibition displayed 16 students’ design propositions throughout the event. The exhibition explored fashion as an exciting medium of identity expression.

RMIT international student and final-year fashion debutant Li-Anne Kuek was one of the lucky students featured in the exhibition.

Li-Anne dressed to impress during the exhibition is a black and white checkered blazer, bright green skirt and black Doc Martens, matched with a warm smile.

After five months of hard work on her final project, Li-Anne admits she was incredibly proud to showcase her collection OKAY: PLAY at fashion week.

“I am a bit of an overgrown child,” she says.

“OKAY: PLAY was a fashion cross-toy hybrid and I wanted to encourage people to explore their inner childishness through it.”

During fashion week, OKAY: PLAY was set up against a white wall near the gallery entrance with colourful drawings that captured the eye.

We all know the customary “no touching” rule in art galleries, but in Li-Anne’s exhibition, visitors were encouraged to interact with what they saw.

They were invited to doodle on the wall with chalks, try on the designs and have a bit of fun touching, feeling and cuddling Li-Anne’s creations.

“I wanted people to play around with my designs, to feel silly and play with their inner child,” she says.

Li-Anne created a three-piece clothing set for the collection. The pieces resembled “soft toys” and were made from wool, cashmere, leather and polyester filling.

The collection included a fluffy flower-shaped headpiece that wrapped around your head like a statement hat, and a yellow, furry little creature with lengthy limbs that clung to your shoulders and sat on your back like a backpack.

The pieces had no definite identities. Instead Li-Anne wanted their shapes and physical forms to be defined by the viewer’s imagination.

“The project reflected a sense of childhood nostalgia. I was looking through my soft toys and came up with the idea of mixing toys and fashion,” she says.

Li-Anne spent endless days and nights in RMIT’s design studio to finish the collection.

Each one of her three showcased pieces were hand-stitched, sewn and put together in two weeks. She says the only thing that kept her from going insane was the knowledge that she was doing something she was passionate about.

But Li-Anne was on the verge of changing her project early on after receiving mixed reviews from her tutors.

“At the beginning of the project I tried to impress my professors and fellow classmates by making things they were in favor of, but the outcomes weren’t great,” she says.

“Then I decided to just go my own way and follow my instincts no matter what, and the result was surprisingly good!”

With her fashion course behind her, Li-Anne says she has her heart set on becoming a fashion designer in Melbourne.

And as she continues fashion journey, she says she’s happy to keep growing with the humour and cheekiness that comes from her inner child.