Our New Favorite Designer Already Has Bella Hadid’s Approval

Claudia Li talks inspiration, matching sets, and how it felt when a top model wore her clothes.

By: Samantha Sutton
Photography: Alec Kugler

Claudia Li’s designs fall somewhere in that in-between category: modest, yet sexy. Classic, yet innovative. You could easily envision those whimsical dresses and sets on Audrey Hepburn…but you’ll 100 percent spot them on Bella Hadid.

In fact, it was mid-fashion month—and shortly after the designer presented spring 18—that the top model wore a coat from Claudia’s current fall ’17 offerings. And while we’d already suspected that the Forbes 30 Under 30-lister was on her way to fashion superstardom? This certainly solidified it. See what she herself had to say about that moment, along with the movie that inspired spring ’18, and which piece she’s hoping to see in the wild ASAP.

 

The story and inspiration behind her spring ’18 collection:

“This season, the title was Dreams.’ It’s part two—part one was resort. This part is called ‘Foxes Live Under the Rainbow,’ and it’s actually a quote from an Akira Kurosawa film. In my life now, I’m starting to go into a new world, being more open, and the next stage of my life. And I started to think about when you’re a child, wherever you go, whatever you do, you have so much curiosity—everything’s great and you’re just so courageous and brave. But as an adult, most of the time, we only do that in dreams. That bravery and curiosity, you only have that when you’re dreaming. So I just wanted to go back to that whole feeling.”

The woman she designed for this time around:

“She’s someone who’s artistic. She dresses for herself, and she appreciates the story behind the collection as well, the hard work and the craftsmanship.”

 

On her love of shapes:

“I love shapes. I love new silhouettes. It’s just fun. I think on the body, sometimes when you place a shape on the top, or on the shoulder, it looks weird. But when you tilt it a little bit, it starts to look good. It’s just about that tiny little difference.”

On the contrasting black ribbons spotted in the collection:

“The ribbons came from Kyudo, which is Japanese archery. [In the uniform], there’s kind of like a bandeau belt, and we did our version of that in a denim and a leather as well. That has a really long strap, so we just played around with tying everything.”

 

….And that cute new cube-shaped bag:

“It’s called a Kete bag. ‘Kete’ means ‘basket’ in Māori, so it’s a flower basket bag. In the movie, there was a scene where a woman was carrying a woven basket. I wanted to combine the basket with all the flowers portrayed in the movie, so from that we made a leather basket bag with a silk pouch inside.”

Why she loves creating matching sets:

“I actually dress like that myself. It’s easier and, personally, it’s more visually impactful.”

How it felt when Bella Hadid wore her design:

“Really cool! We love her, and she wore it so well. I really love when women interpret our pieces in their own way. I think it gives a new and different life to the pieces.”

 

The piece from spring ’18 she can’t wait to see worn:

“The tulip print trench coat. It’s our first-ever printed trench coat, and we’re really excited about it. It’s water-resistant and has a bright colorful print. It would be awesome to see someone wearing it on a gloomy rainy day—I would hope it would help to brighten up their day a bit!”

On feeling pressure after making Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list:

“For me, this is something that I love to do, and I’m happy every day doing this. I’m just slowly letting it grow organically.”

 

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