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.

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