Interview with Xuan Cui for TZII7211

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Xuan Cui

Xuan Cui earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in 2023. With a multicultural background and belonging to a Chinese minority group, she cultivated an open-minded approach through studies in arts and science across global cities like Beijing, Yanji, Seoul, London, and New York.

Interview With The 2023 MUSE Design Awards Winner – Xuan Cui

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

I hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design, graduating in 2023. My upbringing within a multicultural background, belonging to a Chinese minority group, exposed me to diverse perspectives. Having studied both arts and science in various cities and abroad—including Beijing, Yanji (China), Seoul, London, and New York—I cultivated an open-minded approach and developed an appreciation for diverse ideas and styles.

These experiences have led me to refine my unique style, creating a visually engaging and laid-back aesthetic.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?

Surprisingly, I only became interested in a creative career after finishing a semester of economics in 2017. Before that, I was on a typical path in my hometown, working hard and doing well in exams to pursue majors in science or the humanities, like literature and history, at university.

Art was never on my radar. Studying it meant taking specific drawing and painting classes with exams to test your skills. Since I was focused on science and doing well academically, spending time on art studies seemed impractical, let alone considering a career in the arts.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.
My goal is to craft a playful and vibrant world through my designs. I anticipate further developing creations that exude a gentle and inviting essence, with the intention of brightening the spirits of those who come across my work. This idea is central to the conception and existence of my designs.
4What does “design” mean to you?
It involves welcoming freedom and delving into limitless opportunities.
5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?

In a nutshell, my preference is for vibrant designs. I have a deep appreciation for colors and their ability to evoke diverse emotions. For instance, the turquoise, violet, coral, mint, and light pink hues in my collection impart a sense of freshness and tranquility, coupled with a hint of excitement from the unknown. I find joy in observing how different colors interact. In my perspective, the combination of color, form, texture, and details contributes to an overall aesthetic, and, for me, color stands out as the most crucial element when evaluating designs.

6To you, what makes a “good” design?
I believe a successful design is one that leaves a strong impression and prompts viewers to contemplate.
7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

My primary design enthusiasm revolves around the utilization of color, as evident in a carefully curated palette bursting with lively energy. Additionally, I prioritize crafting engaging forms, paying close attention to the interplay of positive and negative shapes, ultimately producing designs that exude a memorable sense of playfulness.

This collection features key elements such as various ruffles, voids, loosely woven yarn, and small crochet pieces resembling bags (resembling flowers as well).

8Tell us about your design process.

I aimed for my collection to exude warmth and hospitality, choosing soft materials like fur, tweeds, knit fabrics, and felted yarn. Opting for hand knitting and crochet, I found these methods best suited to express my creativity and provided a sense of freedom.

During the material development phase, I experimented with various knit, sewn, and crochet swatches, combining them in different ways—some featuring fur, others plain and solid, and some with abstract designs and loose yarn. After assessing the results, I settled on crochet as the primary method for shaping forms and creating the products.

The final products took shape organically during the creative process. Initially focusing on crafting small creatures through crocheting, this led to the spontaneous development of larger prototypes. This inspired the incorporation of wearables into the collection, allowing for a more profound expression of the world's essence. The decision to expand beyond creature-inspired products enriched the variety of shapes and forms in my collection, resulting in a more vibrant representation of the world.

An illustrative example of my intuitive design process is a body piece initially conceived as a potential top or skirt. However, it transformed into a whimsical, oversized handbag—a creative twist I hadn't initially envisioned. I revisited and revised many pieces to ensure harmonious shapes and colors, creating an overall look that is both fun and soft to the touch. My hope is that viewers will delight in the colorful, playful designs of my collection.

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?
In my view, the most significant contribution of my identity and experiences is the eagerness to continuously embrace opportunities and explore their potential outcomes. Having immersed myself in diverse cultures and standards, I've gained an appreciation for a range of values and perspectives, even those that may sometimes be in opposition. This has fueled my curiosity to learn more about the world and has shaped my vision for the future.
10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2023 MUSE Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
I appreciate the recognition immensely! Winning this award will inspire me to craft more enjoyable and, hopefully, impactful designs.
11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 MUSE Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

Through a thoughtfully curated palette, COLLECTION TZII7211 establishes a unique style, providing a delightful and soothing visual encounter. The collection crafts a playful and vibrant world through digital illustrations and crochet designs, catering to individuals who appreciate cuddly, colorful creations.

Recognizing the challenges that come with adulthood and the difficulty of finding moments of relaxation, especially for those living alone, I aim to design pieces that bring joy to tired grown-ups. The intention is to evoke happy memories of childhood or provide simple emotional and physical comfort for challenging times. The goal is to momentarily lift the viewers' seriousness and offer a sense of relaxation. The designs predominantly feature hand-crocheted pieces made with meticulous care and attention to each stitch.

I see this collection as a representation of my passions and skills, which is why I have chosen to submit it for awards.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?
Fortunately, everything proceeded without major issues. Minor challenges involved acquiring new skills, such as watercolors and hand crochet. There were moments when continuously crocheting for hours proved challenging, and redoing certain pieces was a bit taxing. Nevertheless, the entire journey was meaningful and necessary. I appreciate all the "mistakes" I encountered along the way, as they provided valuable lessons and insights.
13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?
The recognition of winning an award inspires me to continuously learn and refine my design work.
14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
  • Individuals with strong enthusiasm.
  • Creative freedom.
  • A dynamic and thrilling atmosphere that is constantly evolving.
15What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?
Massive resources, including raw materials and manufacturing facilities, are a notable aspect of my home country, China.
16Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?
I think the future evolution of design will be characterized by inclusivity, advanced technology, and sustainability.
17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

A) Be brave enough to start and persevere.

B) Set a defined objective. Understand your desires and identify strategies to navigate challenging periods.

C) Establish a transparent budget.

D) Efficiently organize and schedule your time. Monitor the time invested in various activities.

E) Prioritize a well-balanced life. Avoid compromising your health during work. Self-care is crucial.

18Q18. What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?
Tutorials on YouTube and various online platforms instructing on different techniques.
19Who has inspired you in your life and why?

I attribute my family, particularly my grandmother, for their unwavering support in my education and career. Their encouragement was crucial, especially considering the challenging decision to switch my major and embrace a different environment. It wasn't easy, particularly because none of my family members had a background in a creative field.

I am thankful for their support in allowing me to pursue my passion and for consistently caring about my well-being and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

20What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

Don't overthink it—just begin and persist! This advice is directed at individuals, like myself, who often procrastinate due to the fear of producing designs that might not meet their expectations. I hope they can overcome that fear and simply initiate or continue their work, even if only for a few minutes or seconds.

Not every creation needs to be flawless, and there's no need to stress about achieving perfection. I believe that creativity often blossoms when we allow ourselves the freedom to experiment and explore various approaches to our ideas.

Appreciate every (positive) opportunity. And don't solely wait for them; actively seek them out regularly!

21Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?
My vision for advancing my future designs involves incorporating yarn of varied thicknesses and incorporating boning into specific designs when structural support is required in upcoming collections. Additionally, I plan to delve deeper into my greatest passion—working with colors. By tweaking these elements, I believe I can unlock countless possibilities. I am eager to experiment with different combinations of colors, yarn thicknesses, and diverse forms.

Winning Entry

TZII7211 | 2023

TZII7211 | Xuan Cui

With a captivating blend of thoughtfully chosen colors, COLLECTION TZII7211 creates a distinctive style and offers a fun and relaxing visual experience. The collection …
(Read more at MUSE Design Awards)

Xuan Cui

Xuan Cui earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in 2023. With a multicultural background and belonging to a Chinese minority group, she cultivated an open-minded approach through studies in arts and science across global cities like Beijing, Yanji, Seoul, London, and New York.

Read Xuan Cui's interview for the 2023 NY Product Design Awards here!