Tracey Yue grew up with the expectation that she would be a doctor or engineer. That path wasn’t for her.

“I grew up in a very traditional Chinese family with strict parents who made me learn piano, dancing and Olympic Math problem-solving growing up, the type which made me take biology, chemistry and physics in high school.”

But Yue grew up with a “crazy passion” for art, music and the creative side of things. An early encounter with the work of Christian Dior was a turning point. “Back then I didn’t know much about fashion, but the delicacy, femininity and beauty of it all just stunned me and inspired me to want to start designing. Eventually, my time in New Zealand and the friends I made here made me realise that I shouldn’t have to live up to anybody’s expectations but my own.” Since that revelation, Yue has expanded her horizons and has learnt to do what she loves.

Yue’s start in fashion came towards the end of her time at high school. “I had the urge to make clothing so badly I begged to have a sewing machine as a birthday present,” she said. Despite having no experience or training (apart from making handkerchief outfits for her dolls as a child), Yue threw herself into it. “I started making garments out of scrap fabrics, just experimenting bit by bit. After failing miserably about ten times I made my first dress, and I was overwhelmed with joy.”

Yue made a choice to enrol at fashion school and has never once regretted the decision. A six-month internship at ilabb gave her exposure to jobs such as sewing, altering, measuring, trimming and patterning. She also worked with the stock team and helped out with several photoshoots, including shoots with Trish Peng. “I learnt many new skills there, but the most important thing I gained was the knowledge of how much it takes to run a fashion label, what each step and departments are and how important they all are.”

Vancouver Fashion Week will see Yue presenting a collection with a universal and, by her own admission, cliché theme. “The story behind my collection is ‘first love’,” she said. “My best work has been inspired by my emotions, so I decided to make my collection something personal and meaningful to me.”

Yue chose light pastel coloured fabrics (white, pink, blue and green) because she felt they most effectively evoked the theme. “I went for very drapey and soft fabrics as it was suitable to allow my garments to flow and give that light and free vibe,” she explained. “I worked on making my patterns and cuts minimalistic, working with geometric shapes and eliminating seams.”

Yue is looking to gain more industry experience before she goes out on her own. Another internship or work will help her gauge the state of the market and ready herself for the future.

“The most important thing I have learnt is just to be yourself while designing. You have to find yourself and know yourself to be a successful designer, love what you do and what you make. Always go with the idea you love the most and are most passionate about because if a designer is not passionate about their design, it’s barely their design at all.”