Claudia Li brings another quirky, playful collection to Fashion Week

The New Zealand-born designer breaks convention with a Fall/Winter 2022 collection featuring fresh springy floral prints.

Vivian Stockley, Beauty & Style Editor

(Photo by Celia Tewey)

Claudia Li isn’t afraid to break a few rules. Founded in 2015, her brand CLAUDIA LI is known for playful prints, quirky silhouettes and unexpected fabric and cut combinations that march to the beat of their own drums. Her Fall/Winter 2022 collection “ONCE UPON A TIME” made its New York Fashion Week debut on the sunny sixth floor of Spring Studios in Tribeca. In this collection, Li broke from the more muted tones traditionally associated with fall and winter, replacing them with fresh floral prints and bold color combinations.

The show opened with a series of ensembles that used the same vintage-inspired pink floral print. The fabric’s flexibility impressed me: a sleeveless gown with a gathered skirt was closely followed by an oversized quilted jacket with a quilted skirt underneath. Another floral series —  a bright, fresh pink-and-yellow print incorporated into diverse garments — shows how Li can make the same fabric work in unexpected ways, with a statement-tailored pant following an elegant, airy floor-length dress. The models were styled in bold accessories, another CLAUDIA LI signature, including a series of fringed knit bags that appeared in every color of the rainbow.

Li contrasted bold bright blues with sunny yellows and bubblegum pinks, and in a particularly show-stopping moment, paired a clean white dress with a crimson-red fringed bag and shoes. At the same time, many of the looks were completely monochromatic, with several all-red and all-black ensembles that stood out against the plain white walls of the sun-filled studio. The monochromatic looks were a refreshing palate cleanser in between the two sets of florals with the richness and depth of the colors giving them a surprising complexity.

At the show’s finale, Li, who sported a pink bob that matched the collection’s bubblegum hues, stepped out to address the crowd’s applause with a brief and humble “Thank you,” before disappearing backstage. A long line of actors, artists and influencers dressed in CLAUDIA LI awaited her, hoping to get a picture with the designer. 

Actor Celeste O’Connor wore a ruffled blue CLAUDIA LI dress and matching earrings. 

“I’m such a huge fan of Claudia Li,” O’Connor said. “I love that her clothes are so playful, they’re just playful and light and joyful, and I think that’s something that’s really necessary in fashion and the arts in general. I think it’s important to stay playful.”

Li’s designs serve a dual purpose. The fun patterns, bright colors and quirky comfortable silhouettes not only make wearers feel confident — they also exude a childlike lightheartedness. Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, an experimental pop band, wore a lavender CLAUDIA LI set — a crop top with puffed sleeves and a tiered skirt — and welcomed its high-spirited energy amid the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Photo by Celia Tewey)

“I love how colorful and fun all the clothes are. It’s impossible not to feel really happy in this,” Zauner said, looking down at her outfit. “Post-pandemic style, I just want to see outrageous, colorful, floral, spring joy vibes. Everything looked like it would be so fun to wear.”

TikToker Lauren Wolfe wore a long CLAUDIA LI dress in a colorful metallic criss-cross print that featured a ruffle at its dropped waist. 

“This dress that I’m wearing … when I put it on, I literally gasped,” Wolfe said. “I feel like a cupcake princess! I’m just loving it, I’ve never felt like this before.”

Similar to past collections, Li told WSN her childhood memories inspired her to create clothes with the lively, nostalgic feel that is so beloved by her fans. 

“I thought back on bedtime stories, ancient Chinese stories that my grandmother told me when I was a baby,” Li said.

When asked about her unorthodox choice of bright, sunny florals for the FW22 collection, Li embodied her brand’s trademark irreverance. 

“I love doing that,” she said, “I don’t think fall or summer or winter really matters to me that much, to be honest. Like, what prints to do, what colors to do. I mean if it’s beautiful, it’s beautiful.”

The CLAUDIA LI FW22 collection embraces a youthful but mature image through bright color palettes. Li’s signature vision is incorporated in every collection without becoming stale, repetitive or insincere. As her cult following grows, everyone will be anticipating what Claudia Li will do next.

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Contact Vivian Stockley at [email protected].