September 12, 2016

Inspired by gender issues in her favourite film, Fight Club, Angel Chen explores identity and gang culture in her AW 16 lookbook through a bold colour pallet, use of oriental patterns and a lot of punk accessorizing. We catch up with the Chinese designer about her time at CSM, unisex modeling and Japanese motorbike gangs.

UO: Can you tell us a little about your journey to the fashion world? Did you grow up in a creative family?

I grew up in a family that was full of creative inspiration. My dad has a business in paints (the kind of paints used on aircrafts) and my mother has always inspired me from a young age with her great sense of style. It was my grandmother, who had outstanding sewing skills, who encouraged me to salvage and reconstruct vintage clothing. Once my parents realised I was a creative kid, they planned for me to study at Central Saint Martin’s in London which put me on the path to the fashion world.

UO: How would you describe the ethos of Angel Chen in three words?

“Be daring enough…”

UO: Can you tell us a little about the shoot for the AW 16 Lookbook?

We deliberately picked the model in our AW16 lookbook because she has a unisex face. She has always been mistaken for a boy by others, so I decided to cut her hair very short to blur the lines between genders.

The Japanese written on her face means “Come hit me”. It’s what Brad Pitt says at the beginning of Fight Club and reflects the theme of the movie. To complete the looks, we bought loads of punk accessories from Brick Lane.

UO: Could you tell us a little about incorporating oriental design elements into your work and why this is important to you?

I wanted to do ‘east meets west’ in my AW 16 lookbook by incorporating oriental elements such as embroidery, tattoo work and bosuzuku uniforms with western movie and punk culture. It’s important to a Chinese designer like me, who has studied overseas, because I am a product of the ‘east meets west’ culture.

UO: What are some of the influences or moods inspiring the AW collection?

The main themes and characters in Fight Club, Japanese embroidery, bosozuku culture, Wabori tattooing, Kendo, Kyudo and punk elements.

UO: Can you talk us through the design process for this collection?

My design process usually begins from a movie, an opera, a piece of music, travel experiences or even dreams. Then I research those elements as well as what materials I might use. After I’ve gathered together the information, I start sketching and designing. I see the final pieces as different characters instead of garments. They are part of me, and also part of a certain group of people, because of the dramatic way in which I’ve come to express them.

UO: If you had to pick, which is your favourite piece from the collection?

The long green windbreaker. It is inspired by the Japanese motorbike gangs in the 80s & 90s; there are many groups of them, and each group had their own uniforms that showed their spirits. These people remind me of when I was a teenager because I had some gangster friends!

Because of this, I started to research everything about the bosuzuku culture and made the collection. The words on the windbreaker’s back say that the wisdom of Buddhism is the most supreme in the universe, and I found it very touching. I believe the windbreaker would be an evergreen piece in our customers’ wardrobes.

UO: You spend your time between London and Shanghai. How do the two very different cities impact your creativity and your work, directly and indirectly?

London is the place that I learnt about art and aesthetics; it nurtured me with artists, galleries, and operas. I am profoundly influenced by east London’s daring culture. After my graduation from CSM, I moved to Shanghai because the city can provide speedy and low-cost factory production. The Chinese market is important to my company, and I have many collaborative opportunities: the impact is direct, but it cannot strike my creativity like London does.

UO: Who or what is inspiring you right now?

The ghosts and monsters in Japanese horror stories for children.

UO: Number one fashion icon?

Vivienne Westwood.

UO: What is next for Angel Chen in 2016?

To bring our catwalk to London again in September!

Shop: Angel Chen