What do you get when you combine embroidery, fashion and photography together? Not the most straight-forward question to come up with an answer to but for Nicole Chui, combining all these things together is just light work to her. The visual artist expertly mixes together wild embroidery patterns with icy looking photos and illustrations. With some helpful elaboration, it's pretty quick what her aim is with the content she makes:
How do you blend your embroidery and your photography together?
“What I’m trying to do is bring textures and fashion imagery together because my degree looks at fashion communication so because I’ve already have a background in sewing and textures, I wanted to merge the two and see how that could be utilised in fashion communication but I guess generally now my interests have broadened. I recently did a project on female streetwear and sub-culture, I’ve looked a lot into hip-hop and it helped me engage with a lot of different artists, seeing different sides to their personalities being personified.”
Who inspires you now and who inspired you when you first started out?
“I think when I first started out, I was really inspired by this artist called Maurizio Anzeri and now who I find really inspirational I guess is Hattie Stewart, she’s an illustrator that does something called ‘doodle bombing’. I think the way she’s been able to not only develop her identity through her artwork but also kind of commercialise in a way really inspires me to continue doing what I’m doing and I’ve always loved her work since day one.”
How did your collaboration with Femzine come about and how’s it going so far?
“So I’ve finished three zines [for them] and actually, it was for my final major project at uni so what I was looking into was streetwear from a female perspective. I’m a girl and I don’t really see as much representation from a girl’s point of view in streetwear so I thought it would be interesting to look into that and create a space in print for it. My course in fashion communication involved branding so we had to choose a client for it and I choose Stussy because it’s a brand I’ve always liked, it caters to both men and women but I don’t feel like they’ve focused on their women’s line as much so what I did with these three zines was look into their sub-cultural heritage, they’re based off surfing, skating and hip-hop and I used that as inspiration for the themes of the zines. To put it simply, I explored female identities in what they’re based off through these three zines.”
Why do you think it’s important that there’s this female perspective in this sort of industry?
“Well I think like…so I looked into a lot of different interviews, I interviewed people myself and listened to what they had to say about working in streetwear and being involved in it. It feels like a lot of them say it’s a battle to be a girl but I just feel like if you work together to represent what women want is a more authentic point of view which could be more beneficial to the development of that side of fashion instead of pitting each other against each other. I wanted to promote and encourage working together to make this streetwear fashion industry grow and be a better place.”
From a photographic point of view, how do you make your work look so aesthetically pleasing?
“That’s a good question…I think everyone’s version of aesthetically pleasing is different. With me, I’ve always felt like my work has been very colourful and very loud so I think throughout everything that I have created, I’ve just tried to channel that if that makes sense. Also I collaborate with illustrators because I’m not that good at graphic design, that’s not my strength. Creative collaboration is sort of how I go about it as well.”
Who have been your favourite people to work with so far?
“You guys haha (Complex Babes), Jordan’s pretty good.”
Only pretty good?
“No I’m joking, I was being subtle.”
“Jordan is definitely one of my favourites because we complement each other’s styles really well and it’s something that I haven’t really seen before, illustration and embroidery don’t usually go hand-in-hand but it kind of makes sense when we do it. The one we did of Aaliyah and Lauryn Hill is my favourite.”
Illustration by Jordan Henry.
How have you learn from experiences of being outside of your comfort zone?
“Yeah actually, there was this one girl who she commissioned me to a series accompanying an article that she wrote or her friend wrote. It was about LSD but I don’t do heavy drugs, I felt like I was challenged. She had an article about why LSD was go for your brain and doing it regularly. It was in my eyes, perpetuating a stereotype that you have to take drugs to be creative and I think I was a bit uncomfortable with that, I know a lot of people who don’t take drugs and they’re perfectly fine so I struggled with that. Other than that, I think that was the main one because it’s tough to do something for someone that although it’s gonna be published and people are gonna buy it, it just goes against your morals. I tried to make the best out of that situation because I really liked the stuff that I made for it, I based a lot of the inspiration off of films being shot from the perspective of being influenced.”
“I learned that restriction helped me to try to find an angle to make the best of it for me, I had to just step back from it and think “how am I gonna shift this to fit my portfolio”. The girl was satisified with my outcome and I was happy with that.”
What emotions do you want people to feel when they look at your work?
“I want people to laugh, I want people to cry, I want people to just be real with it and not be afraid to open discussion, to be vocal.”
So you want people to have mental breakdowns?
“Haha. Let’s not go there! The main thing is to have discussion and not be afraid to be opinionated.”
Why do you think the 35mm camera is so popular nowadays?
“It’s definitely popping because people are too lazy to edit…nah I’m joking! For real, it’s important now because it’s going against hyper edited images which was what the trend was before. It’s definitely the in-thing and it’s easier to carry and shoot with compared to DSLR cameras. It terms of compatibility and portability it makes sense but also the quality of film is not something that you can replicate on digital, it’s just really different when you scan it. I was speaking to somebody the other day and he was just frustrated with film because it’s overused now and it’s expensive to develop but there’s a quality about it that you can’t get with digital.”
How would you describe to someone what your style is?
“Loud, messy and brash. I want it to be something that’s in your face that people will look at and remember because that’s just how my work has always been and it usually sparks discussion which is great because that’s what I think art should do.”
Why do you think music and photography go together so well?
“Well music and visuals go hand-in-hand because that’s what pushes the music to be more well-known. People need to see something to understand what the music is about and visuals speak a thousand words so that’s kind of like the most efficient way to do it. But also because we have Instagram and when you post something, that’s how people will know and get informed about what tracks are out there, it’s a beautiful way of visualising what the audio is, you can kind of get a feel from a certain colour or a texture you see from the image and I think that’s really cool.”
Got anything else planned for the rest of this year?
“I’ve got an exhibition that I’m gonna do for NOW Gallery I think in October, they’ve asked me to do some pieces for one of their series so I’m doing that.”
All content used made by Nicole. Find her website at www.nicoleemmapearlchui.com