meet di du, the chinese fashion designer behind rico nasty and rosalia's fluffiest looks
Her avant-garde designs channel feminine power through colored leather, bedazzled cowboy hats, feathers, and puffed up bombers.
Antwerp-based designer Di Du likes it “a bit extra.” She’s a big fan of what she calls, “diva-like materials,” something that’s hard not to notice about her designs. Almost every piece is fluff-trimmed, puffy, or shiny.
Born in China, Di explains that her interest in feminine power stems from growing up in a country with an emphasis on masculine power. The 27-year-old’s Chinese heritage is something she wants to incorporate more in her future work. “Being Chinese offers me different thinking modes,” she explains. “A language creates a way of thinking, not exactly on the surface, but in the blood.”
Growing up, Di was not interested in fashion but focuses on literature. She describes her entry into the fashion world as something she had to do to “just go with the flow” with, but now is “addicted to creating looks.”
“I was more or less a tomboy. I’d hang with the boys, do what they do, and try to feel sexually equal,” she explains. “Because boys and girls are treated very differently, I wanted to be a boy all the time.”
Moving to Antwerp to complete her master’s degree in fashion design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, her graduate collection (which she has just presented) is called “Sip My Ocean.” The sculptures by Berlin-based artist Anna Uddenberg inspires it, as Di often draws inspiration from contemporary female artists.
When explaining her design process for the collection, it’s clear the conversation with color is an important one to Di. She describes starting with “heavy, bright colors,” because she thought they symbolized power, then decided to use pastel colors to demonstrate subtle power. “There’s a subtle energy in this collection,” she explains. “Like ocean water, it's fluid, flowing, soft, but very powerful.”
The collection has already had Rosalía, Sita, and Rico Nasty’s stamp of approval, all of whom have worn her designs, something Di credits Instagram for. After Sita reached out about a few pieces, more stylists began to find her on social media. Di designed two custom pieces for Rosalía’s recently released “Aute Cuture” video, including a bedazzled cowgirl hat. Rico Nasty also wore a full look from the Master’s collection to a pre-Met Gala party.
Fresh out of college with the support of some of the biggest acts in the music industry, Di appreciates the interest but also finds it stressful. “I need to take a deep look into myself and make a long term plan for like 2 years,” she says, when asked about her future plans. “I do feel some pressure when I see so many people starting to see my work. But I also want to achieve better myself. It’s a good drive.”
Inspired by female artists and designing for female artists, she plans to release new pieces in September and to continue to develop her named brand Di Du (a name she says people are confused to find is her full name). Her designs being available for public purchase, she says, is something that’s also soon on the horizon.
Di speaks on the fashion industry’s need to find the latest designer, and thinks her brand can introduce “a powerful, independent, and even a little aggressive personality” into the fashion world. When asked what she thinks a Di Du customer will look like. She replies instantly, “confident and fearless.”