Huiying Li, a London College of Fashion (LCF) graduate, has generously donated 10,000 face masks to the students and staff currently living and working in the Camberwell student accommodation.
Huiying graduated from Fashion Buying and Merchandising course at LCF. She has gone on to establish Rosso Arts, an education organisation that helps prepare students who want to study at art institutions around the world. She spoke with us about how her course helped her set up her own business and her involvement in the UAL China Alumni Association.
You graduated from LCF in 2012; what did you enjoy most about your time at the College?
My time at UAL were some of the happiest years of my life, I made many friends and knew many interesting school mates there who inspired me a lot in learning and in life. For people who love art, UAL is a heaven, I learnt new things every day. I was like a sponge absorbing water. After 8 years, I still remember that I was very interested in fashion culture and history. Even though I was a fashion business student, I asked the Fashion Culture professor if I could sit in on her class, so I attended several classes with MA Fashion Culture and History students; I also learned how to create a fashion portfolio when I assisted a fashion student with her homework. I helped journalism students on photoshoots, so I made friends withs stylists and photographers too. When I arrived at UAL, I felt the vibrance of youth and love for art; everyone had a strong passion for art and firmly believed what they were doing would help to realise their future dreams. UAL is also diverse and inclusive; the school encouraged students to be themselves and accept themselves as unique individuals. When I enrolled on the UAL website, there were hundreds of gender options. Students dressed however they liked.
You’ve since moved back to Shanghai, and started Rosso Fashion and Arts Education, an education organisation for creatives, that helps prepare students who want to study at art institutions around the globe. Can you tell us more about Rosso Arts, and how you started?
Being UAL students we felt free to express ourselves, especially in the art we created. Thus, we wanted to keep these UAL vibes at Rosso Arts too.
My 2 partners and I first met in London at a house party. Gala and I studied at LCF, and Carry On was studying at Central Saint Martins (CSM). After graduation, the 3 of us didn’t think about starting our own business, however, our respective experiences in the domestic education industry and our insight on the overseas education for creativities brought us together.
We found that the biggest challenges for Chinese students are the different application requirements by different higher institutions worldwide, including language requirement, portfolio content, short essay assignments, etc. Firstly, many Chinese students aren’t able to understand the requirements clearly because of the language barrier. Secondly, students in China don’t have enough resource to study and access to the specific art courses when they are still in high schools, such as photography, graphic design, film study, interactive design. These 2, let’s say, gaps drove us to think about starting Rosso Fashion and Arts Education. There are many talented Chinese students eager to figure out what made them interested in art and to learn how to develop their interests into a career, and they deserve better education with better resources. We think it is our responsibility to provide the next generation with wider access to advanced art resources from around the world. We hope when people talk about China in the future, they will think of “design in china” instead of “made in china”.
Rosso Arts specialise in art portfolio training and overseas art study planning. Through years of development, Rosso Arts have become one of the largest art education groups in China with 8 branches in Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Hangzhou. Along with portfolio training, Rosso holds lectures and workshops regularly covering all aspects of art by renowned professors, industry experts and working professionals, inspiring and motivating Chinese students to open their mind and achieve higher in the art field. In 2019, Rosso starts its sister brand called ‘Nino’, an online art course aimed at 3 to 14-year-olds.
Did your time at LCF and your course help you when you started your business?
Definitely. I studied Fashion Buying and Merchandising at LCF, which mainly taught me budgeting, cost control, business operations, etc. Different from other art and design courses, this established my sense of numbers and taught me how to be rational and data-oriented when running a business. My partners who learned Fashion Design or Animation will not be as wise as me in this field. Besides, I met my two partners at UAL, so we always joke that without UAL, Rosso will not exist.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
Rosso Arts is still young, so I am constantly learning how to run a business successfully. First, I would like to share the Chinese proverb “High buildings rise from the ground” with graduates wanting to start their own business. There is no need to hurry, stay down-to-earth, and take steps cautiously. Second, it is important to find reliable partners to start the business with. They will be complimentary to you in many aspects, especially in management. There may be disagreements, even quarrels when making decisions, but they are also the ones who support you and give you the strength to persist. Last but most importantly, you need to stay passionate about you are trying to do. There are so many hard times when founding a business, however, it is the passion that stimulates you to keep on and fight through the difficulties.
You’re also a member of the UAL China Alumni Association Committee, why do you think it’s important for these international associations to exist?
These international associations are big platforms for people to get connected. The graduates from UAL can meet each other through the associations, seeking guidance from the experienced, establish business partnerships, meet friends for life, and even find love. Through the events, UAL graduates will feel a strong sense of belonging, and always have the bond to their Alma Mater. More importantly, the alumni may boost their career through effective networking. And thus, everyone from UAL will lead a better life with the help of the alumni.
You kindly hosted an alumni event for graduates in Shanghai in the Rosso teaching space. Can you tell us a bit about this event and recent events that the Committee has organised?
I was extremely honoured that the alumni event could be hosted in Shanghai Rosso. We 3 founders, as well as our staff, were all extremely excited about this, as we have around 800 tutors nationwide, both part-time and full-time, who graduated from UAL. Everyone was committed to decorating the space, welcoming guests, and doing their best to make this event successful.
We also held another big event recently, a gathering at an alumnus’ studio in Shanghai last November, which the UAL Vice-Chancellor, Sir Nigel Carrington attended. We had a big dinner together and shared opinions on the art and design education in China, international education trend, industry trends, and UAL graduate employment here.
What advice would you give to anyone who's not based in London but wants to keep in touch with UAL?
Everyone must miss their days at UAL when they come back to China and start working, so it is a good way to keep in touch with UAL by joining the Alumni Associations and attending the alumni events. It is really a good way to keep updated on what is going on at UAL. Besides, they can follow the official WeChat account of UAL China Alumni Association where latest alumni networking events or news will be posted.
Personally, I may go back to London once a year, and I will certainly visit UAL and meet friends there.
Find out more about Rosso Arts
Get involved in the UAL China Alumni Association
Find out more about the UAL International Alumni Associations and Groups