NYFW Interview with Mixed-Medium Designer Mon Liu

A look into the multi-faceted career and artistic journey of the founder of Mon Liu Designs.

Fine Art necklace by Mon Liu Designs
Photo from Mon Liu Designs official Website

“Hold on I’m gonna have to change this because I just realized I’m wearing headphones so it’s not gonna capture anything you say”, I said as I fumbled with my recorder’s settings.

Monica Judy Liu of Mon Liu Designs, commonly referred to as Mon, patiently waited with me, helping me test audio levels on our Zoom call.

I finally settled for what my phone could capture and decided to move on with our limited time slot.

“Perfect I think we’re all set up we can just start chatting don’t worry about anything like this is super casual I just thought that I liked your work it seemed much more experimental and structural versus a lot of the other stuff where I’ve seen it’s very just you know it’s apparel, it’s nice, it’s for maybe club, night wear – but I liked your work. You already sent your bio over so I you know there’s a little bit of that there but I guess I would like to start with a little bit about your background as an artist.” I had definitely fumbled over some words, but honesty is key, I found, for a good interview. Having a glass of water nearby was key as well.

MON: “Okay. So, hi, my name is Mon and I’ve been a mixed media artist with an extensive background in jewelry making, fiber arts, stained glass, paper art, metal. I’m from Boston. I studied in college and I studied in those fields. I also have a background in architecture and interior design with an interior design degree.”

The mention of the degree sparked a question,”Oh! Is that what you went to school for?”

MON: “I went to school for that and and all of the above. Because I took different courses to learn how to use materials. So originally, I was in architecture and then I went to [Massachusetts College of Art] and they had these studio courses that got me interested. And then I’m like ‘Okay, you know, I want to do that, too’. So I did that. And then I moved to New York City in 2006, and I went to Art Student League and did sculpture, mixed media art, different kind of art. So I learned all of these things

“That was 2006. So, it’s been almost two decades. So two decades as an artist. That’s awesome.” I said, verbally “mathing out” the extensive experience Mon had outlined for me.

MON: “Well it was before that, I went to college before that and started with the mixed media art, the visual art… things. So yeah I’ve been here and there. I was the one that went like – Okay, I want to learn everything. [laughs]”

“I understand. I feel that a lot.” I shared. “That’s why I touch upon a lot of different things. I get that.”

MON: “When you’re young you know.”

“Why not you know? You like – get attracted to different stuff. Might as well.” I said, frivolously swaying my hands about. “So then how are you segueing into fashion now?” I asked. “It sounds like you’re mixed media, you do jewelry, you do sculpture, you do everything. And then fashion comes along. So how did you start your fashion journey?”

Now that the background was forming, it was time to get a clearer picture of the Mon Liu we are to expect today.

MON: “So basically, I had a friend who’s an artist and she’s from London.” [ Mon gave a quick teaser how this friend would be modeling for her this coming up weekend. ] “She’s like, ‘Hey, you know what? This is your chance to show off your art.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh yeah. But you know, there’s a lot more to it. I don’t know if I could.’ And then she’s like, ‘Okay, you know, I’ll set things up for you.'”

“She’s been all over. She’s been my assistant, my everything. So she’s encouraging me and then alongside of that, I have another friend who’s who has a doctorate degree in writing. She did all these writings and she also has her marketing company. So I have these two friends that are like my two lions, you know?”

I immediately gushed, “OH! I love that. Yes, yes, yes, the two guardian lions.” as I recognized the reference to the traditional lion statues used in front of important residences in Chinese culture.

MON: “Like in front the bank you know? I’m just like – OK, they are my motivators. Okay, I’ll go ahead and do it.'”

It was at this point I had to strain to hear what was probably the most important part of the interview with Mon. A puppy I was pet-sitting started belting it’s heart out as Mon talked about how she started in the fashion space.

MON: “These are the two friends that’s been supportive. She’s like, ‘OK, you know, you have to get your art out there. And people are going to see it.‘ They’re talking to all kinds of good things. So I’m just like, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ And then here I am.”

I nodded while mentally blocking out the puppy’s barks. “I love that because like I think having a good support system is really really key for a lot of artists, because you’re so focused on your work that you can’t always know everything else.”

We had to take a quick pause as I apologized for the puppy’s background ensemble. Mon luckily couldn’t even hear the pleas for attention and thankfully understood as she had dogs of her own.

She shared being pregnant with her son and how her Chihuahuas also gave birth – to 11 puppies. A lot of cleaning up.

Mon then continued talking about her journey into the fashion space.

MON: “So I’m mainly in the art part. And then what I had to do through this journey is to find people who are able to make my pieces wearable. So near my area, there’s a theater that would be willing to do that. They will take my pieces and they will find ways to make it wearable. I didn’t know what to do and then suddenly I found these people. So, I’m really grateful.”

I asked about how the designing aspect took place. “When it comes to designing the work, did you design it first and then you tried to find the person to put it on? Or did you work with the person and try to form the design with them?”

Mon explained that first she had to draw out the designs using her desired materials of choice as the main reference point. From there, she had to think about “how is this design going to actually be made”. From this point, models enter the picture. The materialization of the piece becomes a collaborative effort where Mon and the model alternate between the creation of the piece and fittings until it is finalized.

It was a pretty interesting process to me. “Wow, so then that process is – you design it and then you work with somebody, you get the materials and you also have someone to test it out. So it’s a multi-step back and forth process the entire time.”

Mon also mentioned the additional collaborative effort of having to work with a photographer in that process. This was to create marketing materials used for the upcoming fashion show in Runway 7.

Speaking of Runway 7, I wanted to learn more about how smaller designers become a part of the massive, now 4 day, weekend during New York Fashion Week. The response was a little simpler than I thought.

MON: “I just bumped into them online. [ laughs ] Same thing with Paris Fashion Week.”

Mon had found their Facebook ad, applied and got accepted.

I cannot lie. I expected an more difficult ordeal but I saw the wonderful simplicity to it all … and I liked it.

We then talked a little about the Sony Hall stage that Mon Liu would be displaying her designs on this weekend, September 10th at 11am. And then of course, how did Mon feel, preparing for her debut?

MON: “Like, my mind is shaking, shaking, shaking. And it’s just like [sighs] I can’t breathe, you know? And then my son, I gotta prepare him. He’s gonna be walking for me. He’s gonna be doing that piece that’s gonna be in the press release. And that piece is put together by really fragile components so I’m really nervous right now because, it’s all metal pieces separated [that] I made from scratch. I fabricated it and then I had to build the frame.”

Mon confirmed all of her collection will consist of approximately 8 – 10 looks and that they will all be handmade, mixed media pieces. She also stated she made them all within 3 months.

Mon’s collection also straddle the line between accessory and outfit. Technically all wear-ables, the mixed-medium components extend further than your traditional sense of an accessory.

When I asked if there was a theme for her collection she replied with ” “the line pertains to history — majestically so.” It also would utilize nontraditional materials with little stitching involved

I made a note on how Mon Liu’s work transforms traditional aspects of fashion by playing with the medium, while keeping the concept of a wearable form of self-expression. Essentially, a craftsman on the runway.

MON: “I would have never done it if it wasn’t for my two friends that would be like ‘Okay, you gotta show it.’ If they weren’t here, I wouldn’t do it.”

Mon started talking about the less talked about aspects of being a designer for fashion show.

MON: “It’s so much more than just making things. Like my friend writing the bio for me, we have to gather a lot of pictures, making websites, revamping the social media and stuff like that. And my two friends were just like, ‘Do it. We’re going to support you. Do it.’ And I’m just like, ‘I got really lucky this time.’ I’m going to cry.”

It definitely pulled on my heart strings to hear this amazing level of support.

Lastly, I wanted a quick look in Mon’s artistic inspirations that help her create the magical work she does.

Mon talked about not following a lot of artists. She will generally see images online that spark her interest to make something similar or experiment with materials. But after I commented on how I noticed the organic feeling seen in a lot of her work, a spark appeared in her eye.

MON: “I love being organic. I don’t use natural materials per se, but I would display natural form. I would use twigs that are artificial twigs, of course.”

Mon mentioned beginning to work with organic materials next such as branches and dried flowers.

MON: “I am beginning to venture into that. It’s not going to be in this show. But in the future. You might see it in the in the Paris show, though.”

Continuing the theme of mediums, I wanted to know what was Mon’s current favorite medium to play with as a mixed media artist.

MON: “Metal wire bending.” [ Something about the slow, certain, immediacy of her response sent both of us into giggles. ] “I’m having a lot of fun with that.”

Mon also liked to use beads akin to pearls and smaller pieces used to recreate artificial flowers.

Mon added, “I use crystals. I have this piece that has some rhinestones to it.”

I ooh-ed at the mental image of the rhinestones sparkling. Who wouldn’t?

Mon would place the crystals on trim obtained from the fashion district in Midtown Manhattan.

MON: “It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work, a lot of sleepless nights.”

Lastly, Mon talked about her art residency project. During her time in NYC, Mon hosted over 1000 different types of artists in three apartments through her program.

For ten years she had open studios to the national community of artists. Because of the pandemic, she had to relocate back to her hometown of Boston. But she plans to return back to the city to regrow what she started.

MON: “I think artists should [ have ] accessible studios. I would call it Studios On The Go. Eventually I want artists all over the world to know about this and then artists can gather nationally.”

In a separate note she told me, “This is like a sanctuary for those [ who don’t ] have the opportunity to live in NYC affordably. I think the world today needs to unite, and not to be divided by politics and the hardship we are all going through together. Art is important because it brings out the most pure and playful nature of our core being, and many needed help with it, because people get so wrapped up in the mundane, therefore neglecting their inner-child which is the most creative part of ourself. This is where my art studio project comes in – having other creators around will inspire to create something that, only that 1 person can see. And that ironically, is the one thing we are missing in this world today. I love to find sponsors for my art studio project one day.”

In our final farewells, we expressed our thanks to each other for the amazing time spent talking about Mon Liu’s life and work as an artist.

Her endeavor to create an accessible, nationwide space for all artists is heart-warming and the kind of humanitarianism needed to bring solidarity into the world today.

While the weekend for Mon’s debut is just around the corner, Mon already has started making plans for the future. Mon will be sharing her designs with audiences in Europe for Spring or Summer Paris Fashion Week 2024. She is currently looking for official sponsors who want to support her vision and take part in the mixed-media magic she creates. Sponsors will be able to actively participate in the highly collaborative experience of her collection.

Prospective sponsors can contact Mon Liu Designs through her studio.

Follow more of Mon Liu and her incredible work through her official website monliudesignsny.com and her Instagram @monliudesigns_ny.

You can also see her journey as founder of the art residency program A Soho Fine Artist through the official Instagram account @asohofineartist.

And if you are around this NYFW, Mon Liu’s secret history themed debut collection is possible to see at Sony Hall for Runway 7 this Sunday, September 10th. Tickets can be purchased here for an in person or online streamed experience.

Sophia Calderone

Managing Editor

Sophia is a native Brooklynite with a deep love for food, drink and solo-travel. Previously a techie in the agency world, she has now swan-dived into more creative endeavors. She has a strong taste for whiskey with a growing spreadsheet of past affairs and can be seen eating anything from dollar pizza to Michelin star restaurants meals. Sophia is also a cat-lover holding a TNR certification and can be found taking care of community cats or professionally pet-sitting someone’s fur baby.