Portland artist Fuchsia Lin often dreams up costumes that will transport you out of this world to a mythical place, filled with fantastical heroes, sorcerers, gods and goddesses.
Audiences will have a chance to see this innovator’s provocative wearable works in her short film, “Future Cosmos Flow.” A special preview event at the Portland Art Museum is slated for November.
That is a peek into Lin’s busy creative life, which also includes a recent costume design for a ballet, and the creation of a gender nonconforming quinceañera outfit for a Portland-based artists program.
“Future Cosmos Flow” features three dancers who have won Princess Grace Awards, a prestigious national honor. The performers dance throughout the film wearing Lin’s creations, acting out a mythical drama that symbolizes the battle over climate change.
“I love using the medium of filmmaking to feature my costumes,” she says, “You can show things up close on this big screen and you can show it in slow motion.”
Jumping into filmmaking
Lin spent several years crowdfunding to raise money for her first film, “Crystals of Transformation.” It led to a fashion filmmaking scholarship at the London College of Fashion in 2019.
Most movies start with a script and the costumes come later. But Lin worked backwards: She designed and built the mock-up costumes for two years before the choreography was created.
Her magical fairy tales spring from an imagination nourished by the mystery and fantasy books that she devoured in her isolated childhood.
“I felt like reading and spending all this time by myself, really helped me to develop my imagination and as an artist today,” says Lin.
She dove into filmmaking without previous training. Lin was inspired after attending the premieres of her filmmaker friends. She likens her decision to plunge into filmmaking to the moment she jumped off a high diving board as a fearless 3-year-old.
“Fuchsia is driven and has singular focus,” says Textile Hive co-founder Caleb Sayan, who has followed and admired Lin’s work over the years. Textile Hive is a resource for designers. It houses a digital collection of 40,000 fabric swatches from 50 countries.
Costumes for stage
In 2021, Oregon Ballet Theatre commissioned Lin to create 12 costumes for a piece called “Mirror, Mirror.”
The ballet wanted understated, pedestrian looking costumes for a performance that portrays the treadmill and the hectic pace of daily life.
“When I was first approached to design these costumes, I didn’t think that this was going to be the right project for me, because my costume work is so fantastical and otherworldly and extravagant,” says Lin.
But she’s glad she accepted the project, “because it was such a cool collaboration.”
“Fuchsia was a dream to work with. She was willing to listen and include the choreographer and me in the design making,” says the theater’s former interim artistic director Peter Franc. “The dancers loved their costumes and wanted to keep them and wear them out.”
Franc appreciates Lin’s commitment to using eco-conscious fabric–materials that are often organic or repurposed. Lin also buys from FABSCRAP, a nonprofit that collects material that is thrown out by design houses in New York City and Philadelphia.
“I was really so shocked to find out that the textile industry is responsible for 20% of industrial water pollution,” says Lin.
Wieden+Kennedy ad agency project
Wieden+Kennedy’s creative incubator, The Kennedys, recently hired Lin to create and fabricate a gender nonconforming quinceañera outfit.
The Kennedys is an academy that gathers poets, painters, coders, comedians and other creative people to learn ad making through hands-on projects.
A musician named Zairah came up with the idea to create a quinceañera outfit for all individuals, especially those who felt uncomfortable with the traditional elaborate garments.
In Latin American culture, a quinceañera is traditionally celebrated on a girl’s 15th birthday, symbolizing the transition into adulthood. The celebrant is typically given a big party.
“I really love the idea of creating this cape structure which was meant to resemble the typical silhouette of a quinceañera dress, which is inspired by a southern belle dress,” says Lin.
“And then inside of the cape, I designed this hot pink bullfighter suit. I love the idea of this bullfighter. And for Zairah, it had a lot of symbolism to it. But I just loved it because it just had this toughness to it.”
Love in the details
“I love Fuchsia’s work. Her hand work is incredible. Her costumes are so meticulous and one-of-a-kind — it’s almost like haute couture,” says Sayan.
Lin spends hours and hours creating her costumes. She refuses to take shortcuts on the detailed work, even though most people won’t have the opportunity to see her creations up close.
“I love having all this detail in my work, because that’s what really makes it special and beautiful.”
She is sometimes overwhelmed when she sees her costumes on performers for the first time.
“There have definitely been times where I was just sobbing and just feeling so much emotion because my creations just come from such a very deep place inside of me.”