Xiao Li learned to paint at the age of five and believed she would grow up to be a painter. She couldn’t predict she would be coating knitwear in pastel coloured silicone. “At that time (from my understanding), fashion was a bit far away from art,” says Xiao looking back on her teen years. She had little exposure to fashion – other than her aunties’ lusting after Louis Vuitton and YSL bags – in her small seaside town Qingdao.

It was not until she moved to Beijing at 19, and disappointed by the city’s creative offering, she set her sights on London. During her MA at the Royal College of Art she learned to knit and began experimenting with rubber, leading to her signature fabrication: dip-dyed silicone knitwear. The young designer, three seasons deep (including her graduate show), has already caught the eye of LVMH.

Nominated for the 2015 LVMH Prize a week before her AW15 show, she managed to stay levelheaded. Rather than sigh with relief, she felt more pressure. “I kept thinking of what I could do better to push the show to a higher level – not luxury ­– but to meet the level of LVMH.”

LVMH is not the only one watching Xiao Li. Fashion Scout presented her with the Merit Award in January, to add to her growing list of acclamations. (She was also the recipient of the Diesel Award in 2013, and collaborated with Diesel and 10-Corso-Como on a capsule collection.)

Xiao strives for improvement, pushing her label to greater heights. Her brand has matured since her graduate collection, the colours muted, the silhouettes more wearable, and her silicone details refined. The artist has found her medium.

Text by Janine Leah Bartels