Xingchen (Doris) Lu was born in Japan but spent most of her childhood in China. Lu felt it was it was almost impossible for her to become a designer. “I didn’t know how to dress myself up until I turned 18,” she said. “My mother is who changed me and made me love fashion through teaching me and helping me dress up. Because of her, I fell in love with pleats and layers.” 

In her end of year graduate collection, Lu designed five looks inspired by Gozen Tomoe’s achievement. “It shows the power of oneself to break stereotypes and discover his or her true strengths. The aim of my collection is to help customers realise such power,” she added. “Specifically, I hope my collection can inspire wearers to gain the strength and confidence they need to defeat adversity and direct their own lives.” 

In ancient Japan, women were often perceived to be powerless, and warfare was a mostly male affair. This was why Gozen Tomoe left such a legend behind her. Unlike almost any other women at her time, Tomoe was an onna-bugeisha, a consummate female warrior. She entered the Genpei war as a leading commander, and her bravery and strength in battle earned her the title of ‘a warrior worth a thousand’. Gozen Tomoe’s achievement showed the power of one to break stereotypes and discover his or her true strengths. 

“In my collection, I have included many elements of the traditional samurai pants, Hakama. This is seen in the dramatically wide legs, the unique way of dressing and mainly the seven pleats. The seven pleats are divided into five on the front and two on the back of the Hakama.” The five pleats on the front represent courage, humanity, justice, courtesy, and sincerity. The two on the back represent loyalty and honour. 

Since Lu was little, she had always been interested in exploring two countries’ cultures. In learning the history, Lu was shocked when she realised that while two cultures had many differences, they both had certain levels of gender discrimination against women. Hoping to make a change, she became aspired to not only fight for gender equality but also combat all sorts of prejudice. “This collection is a part of my battle, and I hope it can help people gain confidence and believe in their power to overcome adversities, just like Gozen Tomoe.”

Walking into the fashion industry Lu explained that her biggest challenge is to create a new brand in today’s fashion climate. “Customers are always after something new and unique.” Lu interviewed someone working in the Chinese fashion industry who mentioned that in China, the industry is running very fast. “It is very hard to survive if you do not renew the designs.” The other challenge is brand sensitivity. “The brand’s name has a huge impact on retailing. One of the designers mentioned that nowadays consumers are buying for brand names rather than clothes.”

Lu’s influences from both her Japanese and Chinese backgrounds give her a huge advantage when it comes to designing.