Sandy Liang, Fashion Designer
Set for a career in architecture, the New York based designer went against the wishes of her family to follow her own vision. Now at the helm of a successful fashion label Sandy is passionate that you should always listen to your own voice.
I read that for your resort 17 collection you disregarded the expectations of “what she does.” How did this mindset change how you designed the collection?
The resort collection has become a lot more of my baby. It’s somewhere I don’t have to worry about sales so much and I don’t have to worry about a presentation so it was an opportunity to just be me. It was really a chance to have fun where I didn’t have to explain myself so much.
I remember this Marie Antoinette quote where she talks about the fact that if her first born had been a boy he would have been France’s baby, but because she was a girl she was her baby. That’s actually the way I think about resort and the main collections. Resort is going to be my baby because I don’t care about sales, I don’t care about doing a presentation, I just want to try something new.
Did you enjoy the process of creating that collection more?
Yeah I allowed myself to get out of the boxes in my head where I had to check off certain things in order to make the collection look a certain way. It was also my first time being romantic and girly. I feel like the collections are developing as I get older. I’m not wanting to wear the same stuff as I wore two years agoand everything I design is based around what I currently want to wear.
How do you process your research around each collection?
It’s so funny because I’m always “on” and looking for inspiration but actually my best ideas come to me when I’m in the shower or not thinking about it at all. In a city like New York you’re like a sponge and so many things are hitting you all at the same time it’s impossible not to feel swayed in all different kinds of directions. I take photographs all of the time of things that catch my eye but at the end of the day you know what you want to design and you can see it in your head
Is that instinctive? How do cut out all of the other noise that you’ve taken in?
It’s definitely instinctive. I don’t have to think about it so much. I normally just have to listen to my gut. I feel like that has served me well so far. I have some pieces that are me, just pure me and then there are other pieces where I know I need to tweak it to make it more commercial
It’s a balance now as the brand is getting bigger because obviously I want to survive in a competitive market.
Do you feel as you get older and the brand progresses you feel more confident in knowing what works well and in which direction you need to go in creatively and commercially?
I don’t have a huge team of advisers or merchandisers telling me what is selling so I have to be the designer but also keep a commercial head about it.
Do you find that balance quite stressful?
No because it’s all part of it. Even when I was in college I was always of the mindset that I’m not going to make this jacket if no one can afford it. What is the point if it’s just going to sit in a closet somewhere? So for me commercial pieces are beautiful.
Yeah because when someone buys it and makes it their own then that is part of the process.
Exactly. I don’t care for things in a fashion magazine. I don’t care for a beautiful photograph. What about real life? What about a girl walking into a room and people being wowed by her jacket? That’s more important to me.
What do you get genuinely excited about?
So many things! Dogs. Cool cars. Food. Cool women who I get to meet. Boys. Everything. I don’t like a lot of things about myself but the one thing I do like about myself is that I get very excited about things in life.
And is New York key to your work and your brand?
New York is so integral to who I am as a person and therefore who I am as a designer. My brand is so personal so it’s all about what I find beautiful and what inspires me. I don’t think I could be anywhere else.
Your family wanted you to become an architect, where did you get the confidence to strike out and follow your own voice?
I’ve always suppressed the fashion designer in me because coming from an Asian family that’s not ok - that’s not a real job. However, when I was on the road to becoming an architect and I realised that it was going to make me miserable.
Looking back I don’t even know who that person was at that time. That person was so brave to go against the wishes of the family. I think a lot of it has got to do with listening to what your body is telling you and what your heart is telling you. You have to do what makes you happy otherwise you’ll fail. You have to do what’s going to drive you everyday.