Fashion Designer: Rebecca Li @itsbeccali
Photos: Rakshita Arvind @realrakshitaarvind
Creative Direction: Rebecca Li @itsbeccali & Rakshita Arvind @realrakshitaarvind
Talent: Lauryn Bryan @ laurynbryan_20 & Catarina Vaughan @c.i.v_ from W Model Management
Hair & Makeup: Bryony Robertson @facebybryony
A few years ago, I was hiking along the mountains outside Guilin, China, when I came across a Miao village draped with vibrant embroidery. Beyond the embroidery, I met Miao villagers who shared their history, stories, and craft. This encounter inspired me to create “Miao,” a womenswear collection that aims to shed light on the Miao culture.
Traditionally, the Miao people did not have a written language and used embroidery to record their stories onto clothing. Their garments reflect both personal and cultural identities. The Miao’s embroidery is technically complex and passed down through the generations from mother to daughter.
In modern-day China, many ethnic minority groups, such as the Miao, face segregation and systemic discrimination. As a result, a majority of Miao currently struggle with poverty. Most live in underdeveloped rural areas, where children struggle to find education opportunities or travel great distances to attend school. Many daughters in Miao families sacrifice their education and work at a young age to earn money. Oftentimes, they would don traditional Miao clothing and move to cities, such as Kunming and Guilin, to work in the booming tourism industry and sell heritage products. Many of them are overworked, under-appreciated, and often exploited by tourism agencies.
As a conceptual contemporary designer, I try to learn and understand traditional values and translate them into modern designs, rather than copy what already exists. Being an immigrant myself, I was most drawn to the Miao’s resilience and complex history of migration. As a Third Culture Kid or someone raised in a culture other than their parents or nationality, I believe in bringing different worlds together and celebrating multiculturalism through my work. I strive to use my collections and creative platform to portray a diverse and respectful community.
“Miao” was wholly inspired by the Miao people and the cultural practice of utilizing embroidery to portray their stories of migration. I used drapery, embroidery, and layering elements to embody a concept of movement and fluidity—as if the garments themselves were a map of the Miao people’s nomadic journeys.
This project inspired me to consider starting a fashion company that focuses on addressing humanitarian issues affecting minority populations and using my platform to facilitate cross-cultural awareness. My mission is to continue to break down cultural barriers, present new perspectives, and help society become more inclusive.