Kong Kong Wei loves drawing. Since childhood, her father encouraged her to pursue the passion—taking her to art exhibitions and covering the walls of their home with scenes from her fairytale world. Her dedication to drawing brought her to study 3D computer graphics and illustration at college, but she soon began to miss working with her hands. “During my days at the university dorm I was often discussing with my friends about what our future would have been, about the purpose of life,” she tells CH. “For me it was perfectly clear that my mission was to keep drawing, no matter what my canvas was.”
Indeed, in 2006 her ever-evolving interests brought her to the fashion world. She registered her own brand KongKongWei and she began using shoes as a canvas. Vans and high heels are her favorite shapes to transform from regular shoes into works of art. Bright colors, whimsical plants, pixies and tiny clay and resin sculptures evolve from her wild imagination and into daily life, with her creations oftentimes spicing up catwalks and media events.
“Since I started creating shoes, I have being doing a wide range of commercial work, from designing T-shirt graphics for Diadora, film posters for famed director Jiang Wen, graffiti art for BMW,” she says. “At the same time, my own collection moved more and more toward art and I’m now increasingly focused on creating collectable artworks using shoes.” In the future, KKW plans to explore using unconventional materials like wood and glass, freeing her imagination from the constraints of usability.
New inspiration has also influenced her work, by way of her desire to become closer to, and understand even better, what she feels to be the Chinese tradition. “Maybe it’s just because I grew older, but I got more interested in simple, natural and comfortable things that fit the purposes of daily life. I see these as core features of a true Chinese tradition, which values simplicity, moderation and practicality and has its roots in Taoist philosophy.”
KKW tried for a long time to conciliate her desire for simplicity with her colorful fantasy world, until she understood that probably the best way to overcome this dichotomy was to develop two different brands—each one satisfying one side of her personality.
So KKW’s new brand Laiquji (which translates to “collection of come and go,” hinting at the cycle of life and nature) was born. She explains, “If KongKongWei comes from my inner dreamy world, Laiquji comes from daily life—from a deeper relation with nature instead of a pure leap of imagination.” Natural materials like linen, organic cotton and hemp, simple lines and plain colors are the keys of Laiquqi understated elegance. Currently Laiquji offers a selection of minimal dresses, simple traditional leather shoes, accessories made of lotus root, jade and bamboo, but in future collections the brand will expand to fine teaware and porcelains, riding the wave of a current renaissance of Chinese tea culture.
Images courtesy of Kong Kong Wei