Sun Zhe, fashion critic and columnist, Managing Director & Editorial Director of Grazia China. As one of pioneers in China’s fashion publishing in the 1990s, he acted as the editor-in-chief for many influential magazines. Since 2007, he has become head of the Grazia China. With rich fashion experience, he has unbiased and unique views about fashion and modern consumption. He is invited to initiate thought-provoking talks with Ms. Shiatzy Chen, Design Director of SHIATZY CHEN, on the brand’s views about the Paris Fashion Week and new styles disclosed at the fashion show and forecast on future trending in China’s market.
What shall we expect from your online launch of the 2021SS Collection? How long have you prepared for this online launch and what is the size of your delegation to the launch? How do your studios in Paris, Shanghai and Taipei team up against the COVID-19?
A: Our 2021SS Collection is intriguing, which takes inspiration from the story of a well-known lady in ancient China. Actually, it occurred to me years earlier. And modern women that have greater confidence, independence and toughness and keep pacing with the times also provide me some enlightenment. We began preparing for the collection nearly 18 months ago or earlier and preparing for the online launch approximately 2-3 months earlier. We have a creativity team, vision team, design team, and so on. Teams in separate places communicate with each other through video calls. Of course, we’d have yielded more satisfactory results through face-to-face communications because aesthetic liking arises out of intimate touch with each other. We are aware that online presentation of the collection is not the only challenge. We have much more to deal with in the future.
What is the difference between the online launch and offline show regarding preparations and effects? What are their respective advantages and disadvantages? From where you are standing, in which aspects is online launch challenging?
A: Online launch should boil down to a scenario-based video presented through different technologies. And offline shows and online launch are presumably handled by different professional teams. As a designer, I do not want the launch merely online, because offline shows give a more visual presentation of apparel to viewers. But offline shows are restricted by venue, etc. Online launch, whereas, have more viewers.
Upon world recovery from the COVID-19, will you consider organizing shows in Paris or anywhere else? Which breakthroughs will be made in your shows?
A: The 2021SS Collection will be presented through online launch instead of Paris shows. But we shall follow schedule of Paris shows. Our online launch is scheduled at 18:00 October 5, 2020 local time (0:00 October 6, 2020 Beijing Time). Before the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, we may also consider keeping close contact with media and customers in various ways, online or offline.
What is the greatest impact of the pandemic on the brand? Is the brand inclined to pick up lately?
A: The unexpected pandemic poses a daunting challenge against all luxury brands, apparel in particular. SHIATZY CHEN is of no exception. For starters, design and production. Our designers are reduced into a fabrics-constrained situation. Materials, for example, is mostly imported from France. Besides, affected by the pandemic, many garment workers cannot work. Under short-handed circumstances, we cannot complete production on demand as scheduled. Sales is challenging as well. We cannot undertake to keep updating products and consumers cannot go out and buy. Thus, the pandemic takes a heavy toll on sales. However, as the Mainland China is recovering from the pandemic, we have resumed production on the whole. Our 2020AW Women’s Collection sells better than the 2019AW Collection. Our classical product lines remain pretty popular on market. Other product categories are salable as well.
As one of the earliest Asian brands initiated into Fédération Française de la Couture, how do you see effects of the pandemic on Asian design brands? Is it an opportunity to expand prospects in Europe?
A: Actually, the pandemic does pose a great challenge to designers indeed. In purchasing fabrics, for instance, designers, prestige brand designers in particular, are mostly concerned with uniqueness and texture of fabrics but have to deal with inconvenience in international travel. As far as I’m concerned, more outlets in Europe will be forced to put up the shutters. Instead, products will be sold through EC platforms. Asian designers are supposed to sell through international EC channels.
From where you can see, how to use Chinese elements to make a brand recognized in both the Orient and West while maintaining its distinctiveness?
A: SHIATZY CHEN is a constant advocate of conveying elements of Chinese culture through apparel, which is the essence of the brand. I keep emphasizing that fashion keeps pace with the times. Designers need learn and take inspiration from the times and present elements in a way that agrees with lifestyle of the times instead of working on design out of step with the times. Hence our design is a unique combination of contours of Western fashion and Oriental characteristics.
What is favored by youngsters, you think? And is there any change in their preference? Consumers see SHIATZY CHEN as a brand suitable for mature women, those reserved and elegant in particular. Will you consider catering for young consumers?
A: Fashion is evolving at fast pace. Youngsters are ever-changing with an open mind, who are competent in accommodating new things. SHIATZY CHEN is a Chinese-styled clothing brand. Youngsters used to prefer foreign design styles but now they become fond of design with Chinese culture and elements step by step. Apparel is part of fashion that keeps abreast of the times. We keep working on integration of Western fashion with Chinese elements. We respect Chinese culture, but the key point is how to blend it in a proper way and fully interpret and express its meaning. We are still working on it.
SHIATZY CHEN is often reminiscent of Chinese style. In your opinion, what is the so-called “Chinese style”? Which is the priority of the Chinese style, handicraft or aesthetics? In light of complexity in China’s history, which period in history aesthetically agrees with the brand’s “Chinese style” and what makes you think so?
SHIATZY CHEN is designed to combine China’s aesthetic elements with Western draping techniques. We turn hand embroidery and many manual skills on the verge of extinction in China into our own brand traits and aesthetics with respect. In addition to the embroidery techniques, we would also like to go deeper and explore aesthetics and arts of Chinese culture, such as calligraphy, landscape painting, China and so on. The spirits they convey are the design inspiration of each season collection and help us shape the Chinese style of SHIATZY CHEN.
How to creatively blend the Chinese style into fashion in a broader sense, fashion oriented in young consumers in particular?
A: This year we plan to unveil a collection targeting youngsters. Based on the brand identity, the new collection is oriented in “a prestige and avant-garde style with sub-cultural connotation”. Products in the collection will be affordable on average and sold through our official website and Tmall flagship store. We also invite the youngest colleagues (born after 1995) from mainland China to share their fashion sense, offer suggestions for our design team. Although western fashion is still the mainstream of the market, we won’t give up. We hope one day we can be closer to the young people, and the Chinese style also can become mainstream. After all, Chinese people take a great proportion of the world’s population, there is a hope!