Melbourne designer Nuoqi Shen’s unisex graduate collection is made with customisation in mind


This young designer’s customisable creations are made to suit a range of bodies.

Melbourne-based designer Nuoqi Shen believes in creating designs that transcend gender stereotypes. By Independent, her collection of unisex designs, is made to be shared and each piece has been intricately tailored – think detachable and adjustable features – so that one size can fit all.

The contemporary collection not only suits a range of genders and body types, but was made with sustainability in mind. Employing zero waste cutting techniques for her patterns and creating her garments out of organic cotton, Nuoqi considers sustainable manufacturing to be a core element of her design process.

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This year Nuoqi has been shortlisted as one of the top ten 10 finalists in this year’s National Graduate Showcase at PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Fashion Journal is excited to once again be a supporting partner of the showcase, this year presented by Samsung Galaxy, to celebrate Australia’s top-ranked emerging talent in fashion. The event will see a select number of leading fashion graduates from all over the country exhibit their visionary collections in a digital presentation, showcasing cutting-edge design and innovation.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling each designer through a series of interviews. Next up is Nuoqi.

Hi Nuoqi! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hi, I’m Nuoqi Shen. I am a recent graduate from RMIT’s Bachelor of Fashion Design. I’m from China and have been studying in Melbourne for three years. Studying at RMIT and living in this charming city really developed my creativity and passion for fashion design.

Tell us about your collection.

This is a contemporary unisex outerwear collection with new high street and avant-garde influence[s] that go beyond gender stereotypes and embrace the versatility of fashion through creative designs that fit people of all different body types, gender and size.

Male and females might have different body shapes but [they] have the same spirit. Breaking the stereotype of men and women in society encourages modern men and women to face life with optimism and vigour and establish and express their independent personality and individual identity regardless of gender stereotypes. [My collection is about] showing the resolute and bold through sharp and gender-fluid design expression.

The collection emphasises the practical and versatile performance of the designs and addresses sustainability. The designs involve zero waste pattern cutting techniques and offer one-size-fits-all and varied styling solutions through adjustable and detachable features. The designs are adjustable and transformative, allowing [a] fit on both male and female bodies and creating different styles that fit multiple occasions.


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A post shared by Nuoqi Shen (@sandyshennq)

When did you know you wanted to get into fashion and textile design?

I’ve always been interested in fashion and textiles since [I was] young, but I was more sure I wanted to develop my career in this field since I started learning in uni which [is when] I really found fashion design is a thing that I can get [to do to make] my mind keep creating things, and it is such a joy when I see my creativity come to [life with] the real products.

What were the major points of inspiration for your collection, and you more broadly as a designer?

The influence of my culture and the environment I live in, as well as the design process in exploring and experimenting with inclusive fashion. I always explore the interaction and integration of Eastern and Western cultures in my designs.

Also, taking the prototyping design process as part of my inspiration pushes the boundary of creativity. For my aesthetic, I like the cool contemporary styles with high attention to detail, and I always keep a balance of femininity and masculinity in my designs.

You’ve deliberately taken a commercial approach to your graduate collection. Why?

I like to design for broader audiences and emerging social awareness and trends. I want more people to feel and express their identity by wearing my design. By the way, I am planning to start my own label.

You note you’ve tailored your collection to fit people of different body types, gender, and size. Can you tell us about this? How have you gone about doing so, and what challenges have arisen?

I designed many adjustable details in my designs to allow fit on different sizes and gender. The styles are gender-fluid and unisex. The designs allow the garments to be shared between couples and friends, also [they] are easier to pass onto an op shop. The challenge was to experiment and test to make sure every alteration looked good [and also] fit [well].


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A post shared by Nuoqi Shen (@sandyshennq)

What part does sustainability play in your design practice? And other ethical considerations?

My collection addresses sustainability in terms of zero waste pattern cutting techniques and offers [a] one-size-fits-all and varied styling solutions through adjustable and detachable features. The materials I sourced are organic cotton. The collection does not necessarily take sustainability as the theme, but I consider sustainability the core of my design embedded throughout all my works.

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

I think the manufacturing part of the industry is the most concerning. It is very difficult for small businesses and independent designers to source materials and manufacturers. Many businesses and designers are being limited to growing on a larger scale.

What’s next for you?

I will keep studying for the honours degree at RMIT. In the meantime, I am planning on the launch of my label.

Find out more about Nuoqi, head here.

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