One of the most striking pieces in fashion designer Claudia Li’s fall/winter 2017 collection is a full-length trench coat in a deep navy blue. Its oversized collar comes to two dramatic points and the full sleeves drape over fitted cuffs. Li’s inspiration: A conversation with her mother about time travel and the strong female character Li might play in another life. “I had a portrait of a woman in my mind,” she says. “She’s getting off an airplane and she looks like a spy.”
Since she launched her own women’s fashion label in 2015, Li, 29, has tried to tell stories through her clothes, about her own life and the experiences of her family and friends. Her method is catching on. One of Forbes’ picks for the 2017 30 Under 30 Art & Style list, Li, 29, has shown in five New York Fashion Week events and her clothes are in boutiques in New York, Chicago, Taiwan, Japan and Ukraine. She also sells select pieces direct to consumers from her website. Prices range from a $375 hoody in lightweight white cotton with bunched sleeves, to a $4,500 wool jacket in a houndstooth print, trimmed with fur. Her most popular pieces include $750 flared blue cotton denim “big jeans,” which fasten snugly at the waste and end at mid-calf.
Born in China, Li grew up in Singapore and New Zealand, the daughter of an art dealer and an opera singer. “I always knew I would be involved in the arts,” she says. After studying painting in Beijing, she says, “I wanted to express my ideas in 3-D.” Next she moved to London and studied fashion design at Central Saint Martins before coming to New York and getting an MFA at Parsons. Then came an internship for Lady Gaga’s stylist Brandon Maxwell, and after that, a stint in London for British designer JW Anderson. Li loved her job, but says she always wanted to start her own venture.
She launched her label with money from her family, who continues to support her while she builds her business, which is not yet profitable. Last year revenue came to less than $1 million. But she’s expanding in 2017, introducing a 2018 resort collection and starting to sell shoes and handbags, including a $995 zippered mini bag in brown and black leather embossed to look like crocodile skin.[“Source-forbes”]