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Auckland designer Emma Jing celebrates form on and off the body

IMAGE VIA @EMMAJING_/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“Soft cloud-like shapes juxtapose against smiling devilish prints and pointed ears.”

New Zealand fashion designer Emma Jing-Cornall is all about collaboration. When her plans to move to America were foiled by the pandemic, she passed the time sewing through day-long Zoom calls with her friend Millar.

Post-lockdown, Emma founded her eponymous brand and started sewing in her friend Taylor Grove’s studio; a creative space dedicated to fostering up-and-coming design talent. Most recently, the pair joined forces for a sartorial Saturday service – a shared runway show aptly named ‘Gemini Season’ after their shared star sign.


For more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section.


Emma’s style is a distinctive combination of structured silhouettes and cloud-like, bubbly design, with her pieces crafted from ripples of cream-coloured silk and pieces of hand-painted cotton. Below, she reflects on her brand’s journey so far.

How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.

 

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I graduated from university in 2019 and was going to get my J-1 graduate visa to America, so moved back to Auckland temporarily to save before I left. These plans fell through due to COVID. I was also going to show in New Zealand Fashion Week as a recent graduate, so I was making some new garments – but this also fell through.

Instead, my friend Millar and I decided to sew during the first lockdown. We would video call all day and sew. By the end of the first lockdown, I had made around 30 new garments. Shortly after, I was approached by The Service Depot in Wellington to stock my pieces there.

What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?

 

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I decided to make garments because I was just trying to not get bored and depressed in lockdown. I wasn’t exactly sure what was going to do with the pieces, but it was fun to experiment with. After the lockdown, I started sewing in my friend Taylor’s studio. I felt lucky to be in the space, it was really fun and I was surrounded by heaps of creatives sewing, painting and making jewellery. It was my first taste of making sewing my profession.

I think I’ve been consistent with my aesthetic. I just make pieces I like or I know my friends would like. Although I now work [on my label] full-time, I’m also trying to figure out how to sell existing stock and create new garments. It’s a bit of a juggle trying to run it all myself but I have such a lovely bunch of people around. They’re always willing to help, from doing makeup to shooting my garments.

How would you describe Emma Jing designs to someone who’s never seen them before?

 

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My friend Maggie Hablous wrote this bio for me that I think sums my designs up perfectly. ‘Garments take surprising silhouettes, at once sophisticated, delicate, and playful. Soft cloud-like shapes juxtapose against smiling devilish prints and pointed ears. With distinctive spontaneity, Emma Jing celebrates form both on and off the body, producing delicately fluid pieces to suit any moment, season or person.’

Where did the name come from?

The name is my first name and my middle name, which is also my mum’s name. I love her very much and thought it would be nice to include her name in my brand.

What are you most proud of in your work on your label?

The fact that I’m able to work on my brand full-time and I’m not a trust fund baby (lol). I work really hard. When I was working a part-time job I would have six to seven-day work weeks and would spend the rest of my time sewing. It’s been hard work but luckily I enjoy creating garments that people want to wear. My work is really enjoyable to me.

What do you wish you knew when you started?

 

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Don’t undercharge for your work and never stop learning.

Who do you think is most exciting in local fashion right now?

All the people around me who are also creating, I share a studio/shop with my friend Taylor Groves, who makes the most beautiful tailored garments. We also collaborate sometimes, which is really fun as we have pretty different styles of designing.

I also share a studio with Shannen Young and Wilbur Hsu. They’re both designers who have created garments in the past but are focusing on jewellery at the moment. They make the most beautiful jewellery that I’m lucky to wear every day.

What about the local fashion industry needs to change?

 

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I think we’re seeing a change now with younger designers collaborating. I feel like older designers are more focused on pushing their own brands, while the younger and more up-and-coming creatives love to share information. In saying this, shout out to Lela Jacobs! She invited Taylor, Shannen, Wilbur and me to share her shop. We’ve been so lucky to have such a beautiful space to showcase our work.

Dream local collaborators?

I love collaborating with my friends who also make clothes or art. It’s fun to put more than one brain together and see what we come up with. It’s also pretty funny, as we’re always working on a budget and hustling to sell [pieces] so we can make rent.

Who is in your wardrobe right now?

 

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Most of my clothing is secondhand. Now and then I’ll splurge on a big purchase, but mostly my wardrobe is made up of op shop finds. If I have to go to an event, I’ll often wear something I’ve made myself. People will often ask if I’ve made what I’m wearing.

How can we buy one of your pieces?

It depends on where you are! Most of my stockists are in New Zealand. If you’re international, I’d suggest buying through my website!

Browse the Emma Jing collection here.

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