University of the Fraser Valley - Ning Hao - It All Began With Barbie

by guest writer Jenica Chuahiock - Tattles, Tales n' Things

I always have passion for fashion,” says budding designer, Ning Hao. Always. That’s because she insists on going further: passion is fashion! And what a journey it has been, beginning with a childhood pastime in China, and through a convoluted path of science and architecture, to eventually finding her happiness in fashion design.

Ning Hao’s humble origins began in a Christmas tree factory in Shenzhen,China, where she was frequently left to play alone in a room. “My parents were really busy when I was a kid.I was in a room by myself most of the time. So my mom taught me how to sew, so I can make clothes for my Barbie doll. “[Sewing doll clothes] was when I realized I loved crafts. The factory would buy scrap fabric to wipe the oil off of the machines. That was my only source of fabric. I remember how I made a crop top and mini skirt for my Barbie, and I just made whatever I think will look good.” The memory of her dolly dress-making is so vivid; she is certain of its significance in her dreams, even after going through a tomboy phase of baggy jeans and oversize shirts, and yes, even after once having to give up her dreams for fashion.

Like most young designers, the first obstacle is convincing your parents to support your creative dream. Ning Hao’s parents were no different, so she focused on architecture. The decision was not a total loss though, as this turn of events has lead her to the University of Fraser Valley (UFV). “Believe it or not,” she laughed, “The first time I went to visit UFV was during high school, and I saw a double rainbow there. I think it was a good sign.” So off to UFV she went, where she was initially a science student—sort of. “I have art elective courses to take. “So I took weaving classes at UFV. And I just felt like this is what I really like to do, I felt so happy working on every project. Even weaving by myself late at night, I still didn’t feel tired at all!” Then gradually, the little girl who made doll clothes from rags came through, and the future designer mustered up the courage to face her parents. In time, they have come to accept how their daughter’s happiness lies with fabrics, colors and patterns. Why wouldn’t they support her now?

While some artistic minds shun the rigors of numbers and equations, Ning Hao has found a way to embrace it. Having spent some time being a science student, buried in arithmetic puzzles, she has learned something valuable that would apply towards career in fashion. “I thought I had wasted 5 years studying math and economy in college. “However, I have come to realize that [my math and science background] helps me to become different from other designer. Every experience makes me the person I am today. It makes me become more logical when I am working. It makes me see things a Mathematical way. Sometimes in math, when we need to solve a complex equation, we need to break it apart and simplify it. It’s kind of the logic I use when I am designing. After I have a design in my head, I break it into pieces and think about what is the hardest thing to deal with, or what task takes the most time. This kind of thinking makes me more efficient. I can use the same, limited time to make more things than other people can.”

Talent, logic and long hours of dedication have brought Ning Hao here, to her fashion debut. After constantly sewing, remaking and defending her designs, she is now about to face the fashion world, starting with her first ever collection inspired by her Issey Miyake BaoBao purse. “I really love geometric shapes, maybe that’s because of my mathematical background. And the triangle is my favorite shape. So I thought cutting fabrics into triangles and then joining them together will be fun. And for even more fun, I think it would be cool to make the triangles stand out!” With a design in mind, Ning Hao proceeds to pick the palette, which was actually inspired by a fabric she found, abstract roses of blue, turquoise, purple, green and white. The collection is her work of art, and each piece is much loved. But if she had to pick one absolute favorite: the pant suit, of course!

After graduating, she is set for the next chapter of her fashion career, searching for opportunities to grow. “I’ll work for others for a while, then launch my own line. I love prints. One day, I hope I can design my own fabric for my own brand. And, I am also trying to find new methods of construction to make fabric look different…” continues Ning Hao. “I know there are soooo many talented people out there. So many great artists and designers are working in this industry. It’s hard to say what’s new, since it feels like everything has been done before. But still, I think I can bring a new perspective to fashion!”

For more information on the Fashion Design Program at the University of the Fraser Valley go to