In her latest partnership with the brand, Feifei drew inspiration from the mythical female dragons, seamlessly blending the essence of dragons and femininity to create two intricately entwined dragon designs. During the interview, we delve into the narrative behind her collaborations with Adidas Original and Kappa. Hailing from China, now residing in New York City, and enriched by both Eastern and Western influences, her artistic endeavors consistently reflect a harmonious convergence of cultures—melding Eastern classics, science fiction, and fantasy.
What initially sparked your interest in the art and fashion industry, leading you to choose it as your career?
Feifei: My memories trace back to my childhood when I held coloring pens, doodling on my mom’s fashion magazines. Growing up, I always had a fondness for anime, comics, magazines, drawings, and designs. After studying “visual communication” and “visual storytelling” in undergrad and grad school, I started my career as a commercial illustrator. I assist various clients in conveying their brand stories through various media and materials, including print packaging, digital advertising, and fabric for apparel.
How do you convey your identity or culture through your work?
Feifei: Growing up in China and living in New York City helped me to be exposed to various cultures, from the east to the west and from traditional to contemporary. Therefore, my style is a fusion of Eastern classic, science fiction, and fantasy. I envision my creative process as building conversations with the audiences. – Who are they? What would be interesting for them to see? How can I make the content more intriguing? This helps me to adjust the tone of my voice and decide which cultural elements to incorporate.
What processing steps do you usually go through when creating a work or taking on a new project?
Feifei: 1) Listen to the clients, take notes, and ask questions.
2) Begin researching to learn more about the assignment and find out what similar brands/projects look like.
3) Brainstorm for a new approach and make sketches.
4) Present the possible directions to the clients and discuss.
5) Refine the chosen idea to move forward or return to the first step if none of the ideas work.
6) Develop the finish design and keep the clients in loop — check in for color palettes, production restrictions, and other details.
7) Making retouches, adjustments, and delivering the files.
8) Assist with the production process if needed.
9) Assist with marketing materials if needed.
In addition to the creation process, the business side involves contracts, payments, and other paperwork.
You’ve collaborated with notable brands like Adidas. Could you please share another noteworthy experience from your partnerships?
Feifei: Adidas Originals reached out to me for the collaboration on the “Year of the Dragon 2024” winter collection. The goal was to narrate the story of “Carp and Dragon” through graphic and pattern assets, seamlessly integrating with the “Miao Embroidery” culture and technique. Around the same time, I collaborated with the lingerie brand Triumph under the same “Year of the Dragon 2024” theme. For this collaboration, we created a feminine “dragon girls” story and designed lingerie sets. With different cultures and target audiences, I was fortunate to explore two distinct approaches inspired by ancient dragon folktales for these two prestigious brands.
A similar collaboration I engaged in was with Kappa for the “Year of the Tiger 2022” winter collection.
As a creative professional, how has digital art or AI influenced your work, and what are your thoughts on their impact?
Feifei: My artwork is all done digitally, as digital files are easier to modify to meet clients’ needs. They are also more adaptable to different scales for various media. For instance, the layered vector file I provided to my client Carlsberg was used to create beer bottles, cans, packaging, digital contents, train wraps, and enormous billboards.
However, I always encourage beginners to start with paper and traditional art tools before transitioning to digital. This is not only because I value the foundational aspects of art training but also because I believe people should experience the joy that comes from the feel of paper, the sound of pencils, and the smell of paints. These sensations can then be recreated on a digital screen.
Regarding AI, I haven’t personally experienced it yet. Some artist friends of mine use AI to enhance their workflow and productivity. I can see the positive impact it has as an “art tool”. However, when considering its database and the copyrights of original artworks, I have some concerns. Other than that, I remain positive and open to learning.
What part do social media play in your work process?
Feifei: I use Pinterest, Behance, and Instagram for inspiration and networking. It’s a fun way to connect with my clients and interact with my audience. I also enjoy simply doing “people watching”, observing how people live to express themselves online. This diversity helps me understand various cultures and generations, which is essential for my work in assisting clients.
What obstacles or challenges have you encountered as a creative professional in the streetwear and fashion industry?
Feifei: I would say that creating graphics for apparels has been the biggest creative challenge for me. People choose packaging for simple reasons – maybe it’s eye-catching. However, when it comes to clothing, there are numerous considerations – style, material, look, and feel. Clothing is chosen to become a part of oneself, to represent an individual.
When I look at the graphic I created on the screen, I need to envision it on fabric, using specific techniques, in certain colors… Will it look good when certain people wear it? I can’t tell you how often I’ve created graphics that look cool on screen but wouldn’t look good on apparel. It’s like a gamble, and my solution is to consult the professionals – the team of experienced apparel designers I collaborate with. That’s why we call it “collaborations”.
Who are they? What would be interesting for them to see? How can I make the content more intriguing?
Text by Yiyao Zhang