Scrolling through Instagram one day, I was stopped in my tracks by a post on Albert Ayal’s hugely influential account, @upnextdesigner, featuring a beautifully cut steel‐blue coat with what appeared to be midnight blue crystal shards that ran the entire length of the coat’s right side for a futuristic effect. It felt as if someone had ripped the garment out of a 3D printer as it was being finished, leaving this effect in its wake. I was entranced.
The brand behind this fine showpiece? Gnastiy.com, the brainchild of Chinese designers Vicki Tsang and Di Yi, who describe their label as “a brand dedicated to integrating technology and tradition … to reveal the impact of modern technology on the contemporary environment”. Tsang graduated from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in fashion design, while Di read fashion and textiles at London’s Royal College of Art.
The two met when Di took an internship with Tsang and hit it off, bonding over a shared aesthetic and interest in similar topics. That eventually led to the founding of Gnastiy.com in 2022—an annus mirabilis for Tsang, who also won the 2022 Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers’ Contest—whose fresh take on futuristic designs captivated the fashion industry (including yours truly).
Gnastiy.com aspires to be a “cloud‐based database to store societal memories”, translating social issues and topics into physical creations that delight and challenge both the people who wear them and those who view them. Think early Mugler meets The Fifth Element, with hints of Alexander McQueen’s penchant for fantastical shapes, all powered by 3D technology and advances in fabrication technology, and you’ve nailed Gnastiy.com’s aesthetic. But there’s a cheeky element to the duo’s work too: “We think that our creations relate to optical illusions,” Di says. “And being futuristic, to a certain extent, relies on optical illusions and is related to the virtual.”
But the physical world is where the designers are keeping their eyes firmly fixed—to them, it’s more important than the virtual one. “We want to bring to the table some critical thinking around social media and the virtual world,” Di says. “Currently, the whole design community is really focused on the virtual world. However, we think that sometimes, people give too much value to the virtual world, more than it deserves.”
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It is an interesting dichotomy that the designers traverse, pushing futuristic designs and methods while remaining rooted in the real world, but the ultimate goal for them has always been to take on and criticise social issues through fashion. Their next collection, for instance, centres around social media, privacy and communication. “We’re always trying to say something new and improve on topics [of the moment], and to discuss them in meaningful ways,” the designers opine.
At the moment, the creative pair have decided to work on just one collection a year, preferring to take the time to conceptualise and build their creations in line with their theme of the year, rather than follow the strictures of the traditional fashion calendar. “We feel that it’s not as authentic,” Di says. “We’d rather have a collection that we’re confident in and satisfied with, then showing it to the world, rather than forcing ourselves to stick to showing two, three, four times a year.”