Mercedes-Benz presented Xiao Li's fall collection at London Fashion Week this season. The Chinese born and bred knitwear specialist created a wonderland of cheeky hemlines, playful sleeves and spiraling accessories attracting the attention of model Daisy Lowe, TV star Millie Mackintosh and Radio DJ Lauren Laverne to the front row.
Two giant clocks sat at the head of the runway, while their tedious ticking played into the bright room. It was half expected that a flustered white rabbit in a waistcoat would run from backstage shouting "I'm late, I'm late, I'm late". Instead, what followed was something much more magical as an entourage of billowing knitwear in baby pinks, creams and light blues - colours reminiscent of her previous collection - become part of the runway furniture.
The theme of time presents itself literally throughout the designer's first scheduled show at LFW. The smartphone holding audience are greeted by unhemmed sleeves, jumpers that refuse to meet at the seams, trousers that dust the floor, and silicone clock bags. "Every time I start to think about a collection I think about my personal life. For three years I was always running and traveling," Li explains brushing her cropped black hair from her eyes.
The male and female models in a uniform of black and white knitted trainers are able to speed down the runway, the pastel colours transcended into deep maroons, greys and navy the same as winter melting into spring. Using a mixed gender cast is not a statement for Li, it's something natural: "I always think of keeping male models in my show for the future brand. I've always wanted to do menswear, but also... I just feel it's... nice."
Li wants her collection to be wearable, and despite the oversized dipped hemlines and statement asymmetrical dresses, it's unquestionable that this collection is just that. Referring several times to "her customer", it's as if she knows them personally, as if they are a dear friend she can't let down. "The people that come to see my show, expect something new. I really want to give them something new" she adds.
The coy designer bursts into life as she discusses her futuristic idea for a machine that gives us more time. "Time flies, if we suddenly have a machine, we can recycle all the lost time," she explains rocking onto her tiptoes in recycled brogues, "we need to recycle, I have recycled my S/S collection with my outfit and these shoes I bought in the market, they are recycling paper shoes so they are the perfect match," she pats the side of her candy striped blue pinafore that crosses over her petite frame, the words 'we recycle' printed along the hemline.
From taking a peek into Li's world, following her down the runway and into the rabbit hole of recycled time, knitwear and silicone, we can see that her determination to show she is a mature "more settled designer" is at the heart of what she is trying to do. Despite the bashful grin to the explosion of applause on the runway, this timid knitwear designer won't let shyness stand in her way. The girl has knitted her mark at LFW, lets hope she's here to stay.