Designer spotlight: Interview with Wei Lin, founder of New York-based knitwear label, PH5
Keeping it cozy
There are those who play to their strengths, and then there are those who specialise to become a master of one. For founder Wei Lin of PH5, the label's focus on knitwear has a spade in her family's expertise in production — running the manufacture for European and American labels for over 30 years now. "We can develop crazy complicated knit pieces that are still wearable, and are comfortable and functional day-to-day," explains Wei.
Like the conductor of a symphony, Wei runs the two-year young brand with a bird's eye view and ensures that all the pieces of the puzzle fit: She works in tandem with the label's merchandiser, their creative director Mijia Zhang, and also oversees the fitting process of each collection. "As a team, we aim to create a knitwear brand that is both technically innovative and aesthetically playful." Which indeed, is what the label-to-watch has come to be known for.
Already kitting out Scream Queens lead Emma Roberts and Brit powerhouse Rita Ora in their signature knitwear, Wei shines the spotlight on the team behind PH5 and talks about style as an individual's identity.
Tell us more about your role at PH5. How involved are you when it comes to design?
I'm very much involved in the design process. In the beginning of each design season, I sit down with our designer and merchandiser and discuss the seasonal inspirations, colours, and the breakdown of dresses, tops, and bottoms. While the designer is given the freedom to showcase creativity, I am always present to moderate the fitting sessions and to review the samples with the team, ensuring that the collection is well put together. It is all about trying and testing the sample apparels till we reach a mutual consensus.
As you've worked with other creatives seasonally (such as menswear and knitwear designers Edmund Ooi and Steven Oo), what are the qualities you look out for when bringing a designer on board?
While Edmund Ooi and Steven Oo have left PH5 to pursue their other projects, Mijia Zhang is currently the creative director behind the brand. All three of them have helped shaped PH5 into what it is now. They are all extremely talented Asian designers with an overseas educational background. I am very fortunate to be able to partner with them and also become great friends along the way. Their passion for knitwear and their thirst to push the limit of knitting machines and technology really inspired me. As a team, we aim to create a knitwear brand that is both technically innovative and aesthetically playful.
What do you love the most about the meeting of creative minds?
I love meeting creative people who are able to combine the elements of both art and science. Someone who appreciates the technicality of knitwear, and at the same time, create beautiful garments that people want to wear.
Who or what are you frequently inspired by?
Our collections are often inspired by art works and installations with the combination of art and science. For example, the FW16 collection was inspired by an indoor cloud art installation created by renowned Dutch artist, Berndnaut Smilde.
As your family is in the manufacturing business, what in your opinion is your edge over other labels in terms of garment quality?
Because my family has been in the manufacturing business for the past 30 years producing for various European and American designer labels, we understand the importance of quality and having skilled technicians who have the eye for beauty. We can develop crazy complicated knit pieces that are still wearable, and are comfortable and functional day-to-day.
Let's talk about cut and fit of PH5 clothing. When designing, what type of woman do you have in mind?
As our biggest target market is in the States, the fit tends to be catered to women who are a bit taller and bigger. Our aesthetic is sporty and edgy with a touch of femininity. Thus, we are not very invested in body-con dresses. Instead, we want women to feel confident, and comfortable moving around in our knit pieces.
As a fan of knitwear myself, it gets a little hard to wear them as often as I'd like to in Singapore due to the heat. How do you recommend women here style PH5 clothing?
Knitwear is very breathable because it has holes and it stretches. Nowadays, people are into layering and we have created pieces that are lightweight and easy to layer with, even in our fall/winter collections. Singaporean ladies are welcome to try our tops, skirts and dresses. As long as you girls stay away from our heavy winter cardigans and coats, our garments are well suited and perfect for Singapore's weather.
You've said that PH5 is more edgy and androgynous than sexy and feminine. Is this a reflection of your personal style?
I used to be a business consultant that travelled all the time, and I still do a ton of travelling for PH5. I like garments that are functional, comfortable, and easy to move around in. I like things that are sportier and cooler, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is not feminine. I appreciate the style and design of clothing more than just the conventional sexy and feminine dresses. To me, clothing is a representation of a person's identity. An interesting, edgy, and playful garment helps bring out the fun in a person as well.
Is showing at fashion week a goal that you're working towards? Where do you see the brand in five years?
We will be showing at New York Fashion Week this coming September, and are focusing on building our brand around the idea of novelty knitwear. We want to become a playful brand that people can appreciate, no matter where they are in the world — that's why we are excited to work with Society-A.com, to build an online presence.