Why did you approach fashion and why did you decide to become a designer?
Thinking about the earlier moments of being captivated by garments, it was back in high school period, around the end of 1980’s, when Japanese magazines, especially fashion-related ones, started appearing in the local book shops. To a teenager who knew nothing about fashion, it was like taking a glimpse into a whole new world. Those deconstructed, asymmetrical, oversized garments were far beyond my imagination, leaving me a strong impression. Although those magazines had an impact on me at many levels, I didn’t think of setting a career path of becoming a designer, instead, it was only when I turned 40 years old, did I adopt garment-making as a way of self-exploration. At that time, I discovered how much excitement garment-making could bring. The whole process from material research to design to production and also every step in building a personalized idea was fascinating to me. From then, I’ve devoted myself into this creative job.
Could you tell us something about your research process?
Once the design direction is set, I tend to scan through the materials that I gathered, and think about what I didn’t like about the previous collection. Then I work on a color palette and fabrication card, as well as a dedicated board for different sewing techniques, then it goes deeper. The colors we use, for instance, are optimized and elaborated season after season in hopes of creating a truly unique palette that belongs to our mood, which first came to my mind when I saw the paintings from Song dynasty, so I spent a lot of time studying those artworks, visiting the museum to physically experience the color and luster that have been baptized by time. Subsequently, I start putting these idea into shape by deciding on the composition and construction of materials.
Where did you usually find your inspiration?
It really comes from everywhere: observing different cultures and how people in different places lead different lifestyles, as well as going to museum to enjoy artworks, and it also comes from an essential part of my daily life such as visiting antique market, and watching a movie and TV shows. I photograph everything that I find is beautiful or interesting; from people I meet to colors, shapes, and textures. I enjoy looking back at those photographs that evokes my memory. It’s not a part of my custom to set a target to search for, so essentially my inspirations are accumulation of little fragments in my daily life.
The care of the details is peculiar in your collections, why and which are the most important details in a menswear wardrobe?
My idea of making clothes might be too idealistic, or doesn’t necessarily suit present time, so to speak. In my experience until now, sewing technicians would find the sewing of our clothes too complicated, too many details and pockets, and also the sewing style and requirements are quite different from majority of brands in the market. No matter you are in China or in Italy, people are used to more standardized sewing. My idea of men’s wear is perhaps resonates with those who like Leica cameras. That sort of obsession with machinery beauty and refined details is the reason why I find it so satisfying to handle those hand-sewn antique garments.
In your collections the artisanal tradition is melt with contemporary techniques, the tradition of China and Italian fabrics’ craftsmanship lives together, could you tell us more about it?
I personally don’t give too much thoughts on this matter. For me, it’s more about the basic emotions such as personal taste and interest. When I just started making clothes, I studied the history of garments, complementing the missing part of my knowledge, around that time I spent vast amount of time learning different clothes from both East and West, and it was surely an intriguing process, it wasn’t at all systemized, but I came to realize that, no matter East or West, I was never attracted to aristocratic side of fashion, but rather different types of uniforms and what normal people would wear. The first few years were more about learning, every collection almost felt like an assignment after a class. and after A/W 2017 season, I began to think more about how to define this brand, with the influence of my upbringing in Chinese culture, it was inevitable to revisit and excavate my own cultural background. At the same time, majority of the materials we use are coming from Italy, and the fabric companies helped us quite a lot in the development process, they would willingly try to understand our aesthetics and explore new ideas and explore new possibilities with us, not to mention that they helped me to shape my understanding about how things work in this industry.
CollageMory is your last collection, for SS21, could you tell us something about it?
As I revisited Life Portrait by Hanna Hoch, I decided to refer this book as a starting point of the season. I was inspired by her story-telling artwork, and it evoked my own memory and experience. As for me, I tried different ways of making collages. In the previous collection, it was limited on certain items, but I always wanted to do more, so I figured I’d do so this season.
Who is the Ziggy Chen man?
I think they are a group of people who share similar aesthetics and point of view about clothes.