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Being a master of drawing and also a fashion designer? Yes, we can

Interview with Max Cui by Anna Kamensky

Where do you see your career going in the next 5-10 years?
In the next 5-10 years, I hope to achieve something that connects my art to a major audience and gets people to respect my art and what I do. I also want to continue exploring how my art relates to myself and what I can give to the world.

Was there a pivotal moment in your life where you realized what career path you wanted to embark on?
I think the pivotal moment was when I first went to visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Before that, I was a little bit lost and wondering what I wanted to do and achieve. But after the tour at The Met I felt inspired. I felt an energy that was strongly attracted to me, and I really wanted to create something that could represent me as well as communicate with the world. I want to inspire as I’m inspired by the Old Masters at The Met.

Who and what inspires you the most?
I’m always inspired by different people, it totally depends on the period of time. I’ve been obsessed with Basquiat since I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree in China. He really showed me the spirit of freedom. After I came to New York I felt overwhelmed by all the variety of art. Its vividness absolutely blew my mind, so I started looking at work by artists like Louise Bourgeois, Marina Abramović, De Kooning and fashion designers like Maison Margiela, Raf Simons…. all of their work inspired me to keep going and keep developing my own work.

Describe your process. How do you start your projects? Do you do things differently depending on the medium?
Drawing and fashion design are intrinsically linked in my work. Drawing allows me to record and express exactly what I am imagining or feeling at that moment. Otherworldly characters emerge in my mind and stories play out in scenes on paper. Playing with scale, I develop custom prints bringing these creatures to life (they are often life-size). Yes, the different mediums will give me different energy. Choosing the right medium to make at the right moment depends on what I’m trying to express in my work.

Why was it important to you to get a Master’s degree at Parsons?
I’ve always dreamed about studying abroad, exploring new things, and keeping my eyes open to everything. Parsons MFA in fashion design is a really good program, they recruit around 15 people from all over the world. It’s really tough competition and this is one of the reasons I was so eager to get this Master’s. My classmates came from all different backgrounds and everyone was quite mature in knowing what they want and what they are good at. Being in that atmosphere and learning from each other was one of the most amazing things I’ve done.

Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I really want to collaborate with artists like James Turrell, I’m a huge fan of his light art.

What type of person do you envision wearing your clothes?
My target customer is an art obsessed lady who has her own thoughts about life that she can link with my design and who can also can appreciate what I’m doing.

What do you hope to contribute to the worlds of fashion and art?
I want to tell the world there is no boundary between fashion and art. Being an artist you can use your fashion designer side to manipulate the canvas, while being a fashion designer you can use your artist side to achieve something very unique. Either way, you just need to find the balance and show who you are.

What role does social media play in your practice as a designer?
For social media like Instagram, it is an easy way of showing people what I’m doing and it can hopefully attract the target customer.

Where would you most like to exhibit your work/what fashion show would you most like to be a part of?
For an exhibition that would definitely be the Venice Biennale, and for a fashion show I would choose New York Fashion Week.

What role do you think artists play in today’s world?
Nowadays artist as a title is more like a label than a job. I remember one of my friends told me if someone says they are an artist that means they are unemployed with no money. It’s pretty ironic that there have been so many artists in the world and only a few you can really relate to. But art is still a very crucial part of humanity, so for me, the artist should play the role of trying to make this world a better looking place, while also translating the collective consciousness into sensory mode.

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