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Why London-based NFT artist Stephy Fung makes digital qipaos

An iconic garment in a new context. 

TEXT MARK LEAN

IMAGES STEPHY FUNG

Stephy Fung grew up on the outskirts of London, but her Chinese culture is one that endures and ignites her creativity. “I feel enriched by both cultures yet not fitting into either perfectly,” the 3D motion artist says. “I think my interest in Chinese culture grew greater when I became an adult. Sure, I had my family and Chinese school to feed into my Chinese heritage, but a lot of my studies were Euro-centric and I would mostly communicate to my friends in English,” she adds, revealing the dichotomy of a person who lives a life sandwiched between two worlds. 

 

But Fung is thriving in her duo-culture construct. She is fast-making an impression with her NFT fashion pieces. Her subject matter: qipao—a reverential nod to her Hong Kong roots and a personal interpretation of the iconic garment. 

 

Fung says “qipaos are one of the more recognisable garments from Chinese culture”. She tends to create her own patterns and textures, infusing her own style onto the digital garments. “I come from a graphic design background and so I have a bias towards big and bold graphics when it comes to my patterns. I also enjoy giving the pieces a personal touch,” she adds. 

Learning from YouTube videos

She takes this hands-on approach to the next level. Fung learned how to create her digital fashion creations by watching videos on YouTube. “I learned all my 3D and digital fashion skills [on my own] and I don’t see why anyone can’t do the same thing. There’s a lot of free resources online to get you started,” she says. 

 

Adding to this, Fung believes that due to this field being new, there is a lot of room for people to establish themselves within the NFT space and showcase new ways of creating digital fashion that hasn’t been done before. “This space is only going to get bigger and it’s exciting to be in it,” she says. 

 

The artist is currently working on a collaboration drop with The Fabricant. “Since Chinese New Year just passed, I wanted to create a collection based off the zodiac animals. We would love to have as many people get into the digital fashion space with this collection, so if you’re interested in it then visit this link,” she says. 

 

While Fung bases her NFT creations on her heritage, she also admits that there are “many things I don’t know about in Chinese culture”. But she is “making more of an effort to learn and also share with my audience via my art and creations”.

When a dress is more than a dress

Often immortalised in Chinese cinema, the qipao is both an emblem of style and a piece of clothing that elegantly tucks into one’s imagination. This could be attributable to films like Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love. Cinema, Fung says, provides her with a fount of ideas. 

 

“What I notice is that especially in films, I always tend to analyse the set and costume design. In terms of clothing styles, I really enjoy traditional Chinese garments and pairing [them] with streetwear or techwear. The combination of fusing traditional with modern excites me and feels true to my identity,” she elaborates. 

 

Colour, too, is essential in Fung’s work. “Another thing I notice within my craft is my love for using bright vibrant colours. I would say this influence would come from traditional Chinese clothing, which are always using beautiful vibrant colour palettes,” she adds. 

 

Would she ever consider making physical iterations of her digital qipaos? “I would love to make my own clothing, but they would most likely be a finite amount,” Fung says. But she also feels that “there is enough physical fashion in this world and digital fashion is going to change how we interact with the fashion industry”.

When digital fashion goes mainstream

As for the future, Fung hopes “to see more people creating and wearing digital fashion within the field so that more people understand how powerful digital fashion can be, especially with its links to Web 3.0”. 

 

Like most Web 3.0 natives, she is excited to see how AR, VR and metaverse technologies will evolve within the next few years. “Hopefully as technology progresses, then it will be easier for mainstream people to access digital fashion and have fun with it,” she says. And we’re quite certain, in the years ahead, there will be burgeoning demand for Fung’s NFT qipaos.