Art of Style

The working wardrobe: Faye Wei Wei

For London-born artist FAYE WEI WEI, her sartorial style is very much an expressive extension of her artistic aesthetic – both of which have been inspired by a penchant for fantasy and the importance of identity. Here, she talks to MEGAN LOGUE about her latest work and exhibitions, and being a die-hard fan of feminine fashion with attitude

Photography Annie LaiStyling Annie Hertikova
Jacket, white shirt dress, hair slide, and earrings, all Simone Rocha

Known for her figurative dreamscapes, British-Chinese artist Faye Wei Wei is part of a new wave of creatives bringing new life and fresh energy to the age-old medium of paint. There’s a palpable sense of fantasy in Wei Wei’s work – and a degree of transcendence to which even the artist herself is not immune. The London native describes her work as “diaristic” and says gazing upon any one of her pieces gives her the feeling of being “flung back into the moment of making each painting”. The artist, who trained at Slade School of Fine Art, elaborates: “My art is about intimacy, and, of course, one of the main facets of intimacy is the relationship you have with yourself. Creating work is about asking yourself what you find beautiful and meaningful and why. Maybe that reflection is why creating art brings me so much peace.”

Art has been a huge part of Wei Wei’s world since she was a child. She credits Enid Blyton’s book The Magic Faraway Tree with helping her discover her distinctive painting style. “When I was little, I would draw constantly – and I remember being so struck by the descriptions [in The Magic Faraway Tree]. After reading it, I painted my version of the tree, with amazing magical creatures with moon faces perched on every branch. It was the first time I ever created a piece that felt completely my own.” This theme of escapism, or stepping into another realm, is one that recurs throughout Wei Wei’s oeuvre; arguably because that’s an integral part of her own artistic process. “When I’m in the studio, absorbed in a piece, I feel as if I am completely alone in the whole world. I can almost feel all the stars rushing around me, as if I am inside my paintings.”

But while Wei Wei’s work in undoubtedly introspective, she loves nothing more than seeing how viewers interact with it. “I love seeing how people react to my work – it’s so satisfying when it elicits strong emotions.” On March 13, Wei Wei will celebrate a career milestone of epic proportions with the launch of two synchronized solo exhibitions – Sun and Moon – held in Japan and Vienna, respectively. The first of many exciting projects in the pipeline for 2021, it would appear that Wei Wei has pulled off the ultimate artistic feat and turned life itself into a magical world of her own creation. Here, she shares her career and style secrets…

Jacket, white shirt dress, hair slide, and earrings, all Simone Rocha; shoes, and bag, both Miu Miu; socks, Dries Van Noten; ring, Bea Bongiasca

Find your medium

“I find it difficult to define my painting style because it’s not affected; I don’t think I could make anything else. I have always loved paint; it’s such an amazing mud. You can make something out of nothing with paint. It’s a completely alchemical process. For me, painting often feels like a ritualistic dance and the most intuitive and natural way that my hands and body can express what’s going on in my mind. Paint has such poetic, fluid qualities, I feel lucky to get to work with it every day. However, I’m still very young in my artistic journey and I’d also love to experiment with film, poetry, writing, acting – and I definitely want to make one song in my lifetime. There are so many things I want to do and try. I’m proud of the fact that I refuse to limit myself. If my work has integrity, why shouldn’t I pursue everything I’m interested in?”

White point-toe flats, Miu Miu; pink clutch bag, Bottega Veneta; headband, Jennifer Behr

Battling creative block

“With everything going on in the world right now, a lot of my creative friends have been grappling with creative block and low energy lately. For me, the worst thing to do in that situation is to succumb to it. The only way to progress in painting is to pick up the brush and face the blank canvas head-on, with as much strength and courage as you can. One recent piece of work I’m especially proud of is a book I worked on with my friend Manon Lutanie, Hooker’s Green Lake, which was published by her publishing house, Éditions Lutanie, in December. It’s a collection of my drawings – a really simple, but beautiful, little thing – and I’m so proud of it because it was born out of a year when I felt frustrated by the world and painting felt so challenging. Going back to just working on paper felt so liberating. The surface is so smooth and you don’t need to worry about priming – you can just go for it. I think that sense of intimacy and immediacy is something I’ve really captured in these drawings.”

Blazer, and skirt, both Gucci; blouse, Miu Miu; ballet flats, Prada; bracelet, and earrings, Timeless Pearly; tights, stylist’s own
Blazer, and skirt, both Gucci; blouse, Miu Miu; bracelet, Timeless Pearly; rings on right hand, (middle finger) Selim Mouzannar and (index finger) Suzanne Kalan; ring on left hand, Ileana Makri. Tights, stylist’s own

Broaden your horizons

“I have two solo shows launching on March 13 – Sun and Moon – in Tokyo and Vienna. I love the titles, which are simple but symbolic; like I have this tension tugging at me between these two worlds – two places I absolutely adore; as if I’m stretched across the universe. Of course, I can’t go to either of the openings, but that’s the world we’re living in right now. I was introduced to my gallerist Lisa Kandlhofer by my good friends and fellow artists Nicole Wittenberg and James English Leary. It feels like such an accomplishment to be doing a solo show with Galerie Kandlhofer for many reasons, but particularly because it came about through the support and belief of this community of painters. It’s such a sense of relief when you create a body of work and release it into the world. I’m so excited to see my pictures hanging up on the white walls – it really gives me a sense of what I’ve achieved.”

Sweater, skirt, and pumps, all Miu Miu; socks, Dries Van Noten; ring, Bayco

Play with perception

“I view my sartorial style as an extension of my artistic aesthetic. If my work weren’t connected to how I present myself, I don’t think it would be genuine. I’m drawn to pretty dresses and gowns; but, as a 27-year-old woman, I don’t think that’s particularly surprising. I’m a huge fan of Miu Miu and have loved the brand since I was a little girl. You can always tell when someone is wearing Miu Miu, thanks to a flawless fit and little design details like the ribbons and bows. I just got a new pair of crystal-embellished Miu Miu shoes and I am mesmerized by them. They’re so sparkly, I find it difficult to tear my eyes away. I’m also a big fan of Simone Rocha. Her work is so feminine, but also strong. There’s a punky, hard edge to it, and the level of detail and craftsmanship is incredible. She’s just such an artist, she has real vision; I really respect what she does. I don’t think I should have to wear suits and cut my hair short to have my work taken seriously. I’m aware that I have created a kind of dream or fantasy of myself, but I think that’s what makes fashion interesting. You can be playful and construct a character for yourself.”

Necklace, Bayco; rings (left and center), Marlo Laz, and (right) Selim Mouzannar; pumps, Miu Miu; hair slides, Simone Rocha

Every day is an occasion

“There are two sides to my style. When I’m in my studio painting, I will literally just wear pajamas all day. However, if I feel like dressing up, I’ll usually throw on whatever piece is my favorite at that moment in time, even if it’s totally extravagant. Lately, I have been getting extremely dressed up, even when I’m just doing the most mundane activity, like heading out for a walk. I’d happily wear a Miu Miu gown for a trip to Borough Market [Wei Wei’s local food market in London]. I wear these special pieces day to day simply because they’re beautiful. I really believe clothes have the power to boost your mood. There are no true ‘occasions’ at the moment, so I think it’s important to just dress up whenever you want to.”

Dress, Jacquemus; cardigan, Miu Miu; mules, Manolo Blahnik; socks, Dries Van Noten

Create your own rituals

“I’ve been watching a lot of beauty tutorials on YouTube lately. Personally, I love makeup. It’s so much fun to create a ritual that’s all your own. You can be whoever you want to be and whoever you want people to see on any given day. I’ve been wearing makeup for about a decade at this point, so I’ve made all the mistakes – I’m probably still making some. At the moment, my go-to combination is baby-blue eyeshadow (it really brightens my face and adds a point of interest), worn with liquid liner (brown, because it’s so much softer than black), paired with a brown-toned lipstick and lip liner. I just discovered lip liner this year and it has been a revelation. In terms of brands and cult products, I love Chantecaille mascara and foundation, and I’m obsessed with lipsticks and blusher – RMS Beauty’s Lip2cheek in Beloved is the most perfect reddish-pink hue. I wear it constantly.”