By Elsa Hawkes and Anabella Pacheco. Cover Image: Courtesy of Sun Huiyi.
Sun Huiyi, also known as Cali, from Jiling, China, is a Shoes and Accessories Design student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze. As the youngest and only girl in her family, Cali was bound to be as competitive as possible. She wanted to show she was more than just a lady-like girl and, in particular, more than her older brother’s sister. She wanted to be known as something more.
Having a passion and drive for something design-related, Cali decided to study fashion design for four years. After graduating, Cali put effort into designing footwear, as she thought she could express her ideas more uniquely and creatively.
Cali’s uniqueness is transferred into designs that go further than just paper. The gears behind her art can be seen in each style and portfolio. The designer explains that she was “always into minimalism”, but her designs speak otherwise to me.
Perhaps they are a vessel for clearing out her mind so that it feels more minimalist. Designs are a vacuum to put ideas, making it easier to let go of those thoughts after expressing them into the physical world.
Her footwear pieces include a specific dynamism and movement that seem otherworldly, specific to her style.
She takes inspiration from her life experience and that of the people closest to her, creating beauty from fears and inabilities.
In her latest designs, Cali has taken tough subjects such as manipulation, gaslighting, and facing fears, and she has used them for inspiration to create beautiful final products.
Cali explained that many of these ideas spawned from discrimination in her home country, China, and Italy. In China, she faced gender discrimination as men are expected to succeed and be better at school. Growing up, she realised she would rather lead her life than rely on someone else. As an artist, she likes to break the rules and decided to put everything into designing and show that she would rather not be ‘lady-like’.
She created a collection, thinking about what life would be like underwater. This idea came from her lifelong fear of water, which she decided to face head-on by learning to scuba dive, an experience that helped her get out of a rut and overcome her fear. She describes it as a rebirth experience, which influenced her designs and helped her realise that “if you give life meaning, it will give meaning back to you”.
Many of Cali’s designs relate to her human experience of this world and the psychology behind it. Through her Lost in the Maze collection, she highlights that outer beauty does not always mean absolute beauty within. To illustrate her point, she used the Datura flower, juxtaposing beauty versus poison. It is a story of a person within a maze, unable to find the way out. It is a story of finding the right direction. The more you panic, the trickier the maze becomes.
She has also created her Inner Freaks collection, which looks into the darker side of human nature and tries to transform it. Each product is inspired by someone close to her, taking one of their darker qualities and transforming it into a beautiful product.
Cali’s designs will forever be attractive because of her human-life interpretation of shoe design and her take on life experiences, humanity, and real-life stories and issues. We are excited to keep up with her and see what she creates next.
Sun Huiyi, aka Cali, is a Shoes and Accessories Design student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
Anabella C. Pacheco is a Fashion Business and Digital Marketing student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
Elsa Hawkes is a Fashion Styling & Creative Direction student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.