A lot of things happened in fashion in 2015, themes appeared, trends emerged, constraints were lifted; gender neutral (something that plenty of people have always done) became a selling point, the zeitgeist pushed feminism into commercial vocabulary, underwear meant something more than Victoria’s Secret lace and Marks and Sparks cotton.
“Totally agree, and that also applies to a lot of other subjects,” remarks Hong Kong born designer Marie Yat. “Part of a designer’s job is to keep making things better by observing and questioning, refining the products and the imagery responding to peoples changing habits and needs. So this type of conversation is needed as we evolve.”
Launching her label after graduating from the BA Fashion Design course at Central Saint Martins – following intern stints at Yang Li and Hussein Chalayan – Yat’s talk is all pants, that is, the nucleus of her conversation is the emerging lingerie market (she makes modern underwear for women), the customer for whom brands like & Other Stores and Acne Studios similarly aim to cater.
Unlike the heavyweights, the pull for Marie was internal: “Designing lingerie is mainly coming from personal needs,” she explains. “I realised it's hard to find underwear that is interesting, unconventional and comfortable to wear everyday.”
“Lingerie normally has very delicate details, as for unisex underwear, its bold and sometimes heavily branded,” she reports, “I always wish there is something we can wear everyday, as casual as a piece of unisex underwear, but also looks special and feels delicate.”
And so MARIEYAT was conceived, its respective SS16 look book, above, confidently illustrating the anti-Agent Provocateur, anti-Calvin Klein, anti-naff, anti-cliché aesthetic that Yat’s pieces occupy. The MARIEYAT woman? She boasts a character that marries all the ladies Yat respects and admires she says (elsewhere the casting for the aforementioned 'book was apparently an organic affair, the women featured friends of the photographer).
Keeping proceedings properly personal, the designer’s mum has been known to trial new garments. “At the beginning she was not sure about the drop bindings… But now she wears them a lot and gives lots of feedback on the designs and the products. Sometimes she’s quite critical, but mom is always right!”
MARIEYAT is proudly comprised of natural fabrics (read: cotton and silk), a commitment adopted on the garments physical proximity to the body: “it serves the purpose of protection, so the softness and the touch is essential,” we’re told.
Still in its infancy – the ecomm space only debuted in November – much of the label’s output has been conducted through social media: “It is really important for us to be able to do the story telling via social media, connect to people who are interested in the brand, not only buying the product but also like to see the thoughts around it,” says Marie, vocalising a brand message not dissimilar from contemporary labels like Marques’Almeida. “Since (the online shop) launched, it’s been going well," she adds, "The biggest surprise is the returning customers in such a short time frame; we feel very grateful."
While the big N-Y-E featured appearances from champagne, whiskey and tea (apparently), 2016 is tapped for a year of excitement and expansion, with the release of SS16 in early February. “We’re also working on the next collection at the moment. The rest will come naturally.”
Words: Zoe Whitfield
Imagery: Madeleine Morlet