On July 27, 2012 by Design China

Moni is a graphic designer based in Bei­jing. Orig­i­nally from Guangxi Province, he stud­ied eco­nom­ics at Ren­min Uni­ver­sity fol­low­ing the advice of a close rel­a­tive but later found him­self work­ing in roles that nat­u­rally led him into design. In this inter­view, we dis­cuss a time where inde­pen­dent design­ers were unheard of and how Moni tran­si­tioned from a golden aca­d­e­mic into a tal­ented creative.

How did you develop an inter­est in design?
I’ve always had a pas­sion for paint­ing, which is where it all started. I wanted to go to CAFA for uni­ver­sity but this was in 1990 dur­ing a very sen­si­tive time in China. Since I was quite strong in my aca­d­e­mic stud­ies (I achieved the sec­ond high­est grades in school), I was encour­aged to pur­sue a career in eco­nom­ics. I even­tu­ally ended up in Ren­min Uni­ver­sity as a result.

What hap­pened after you grad­u­ated?
I went to work for an export com­pany who deal in cloth­ing. It was at this time that I started exper­i­ment­ing with fash­ion design. I didn’t have any for­mal or tech­ni­cal train­ing, but I decided to give it a go any­way. I also took part in com­pe­ti­tions and found myself doing fairly well. I didn’t come first or sec­ond, but the results indi­cated to me that this was some­thing worth pursuing.

Even­tu­ally, I ended up work­ing as edi­tor for the mar­ket­ing sec­tion of a pub­li­ca­tion called Fash­ion Times. From here I was rec­om­mended to one of the first gen­er­a­tion of inde­pen­dent design­ers. I started work­ing as an intern there, cre­at­ing pat­terns for about half a year before churn­ing out more of my own fash­ion designs and tak­ing part in more com­pe­ti­tions. A year later in 1996, I met Ziye Wang.

How did you find your­self work­ing as a graphic designer?
Iron­i­cally, around the time that I started my own com­pany, I lost inter­est in fash­ion design and redis­cov­ered my pas­sion for paint­ing. I delved more into graph­ics as a result, and worked in adver­tis­ing. I even moved to Shen­zhen for a while and worked as a Cre­ative Director.

Why did you lose inter­est in fash­ion design?

Cre­atives at that time had no option but to “design” for depart­ment stores; there were no inde­pen­dent fash­ion design­ers and work was a process of doing things with barely any cre­ativ­ity involved. There was no orig­i­nal­ity. I also helped Ziye on the pro­mo­tion of her works, putting together cat­a­logues, organ­is­ing pho­to­shoots etc. When she was expe­ri­enc­ing her bot­tle­neck period, I encour­aged her to study abroad because I empathised with how she was feel­ing. All of this pushed me away from fash­ion and I was more inter­ested in becom­ing an artist – to be more exper­i­men­tal, expres­sive and free.

How did your brand, Van­coo, tran­spire?

We were aware of the store Feng Guo and knew that we really wanted to do some­thing to get involved. We were also think­ing of ways to re-use left­over fab­ric from Ziye’s works, and ended up mak­ing dolls, which were very well received. This led to the devel­op­ment of the brand and focus­ing on humor­ous graph­ics for every­day prod­ucts, such as bags, pouches, badges etc. We needed our prod­ucts to be cheap enough for our tar­get mar­ket, but also high in quality.

Where do you hope to take the brand?
We’re con­stantly think­ing about ways to keep Van­coo fresh since it is copied so much these days. We’re think­ing about open­ing our own store too – maybe in 798 – but Feng Guo is look­ing to develop also, so we’re wait­ing to see which direc­tion they’ll take.

Thanks to Lynn Zhang for assist­ing and interpreting.

Syn­di­cated from

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