Genderless: fashion’s new buzzword. From Alessandro Michele’s pussybow anointed debut at Gucci, to boundary pushing unisex brands Hood by Air and Yeezy, and Selfridges’ recent Agender pop-up shop, traditional binaries that were once so clear cut in the industry have been thoroughly blurred. In 2016, to identify with just one camp seems a little uncool. This is a zeitgeist that menswear designer Chin has thrived in. His debut collection, all florals, oversized sleeves and draping silhouettes, unabashedly cited womenswear, owing to his BA in the subject from Taiwan. The brand’s SS16 follow-up pushed this further, where sheer materials, exposed skin and brilliant placement of buckles evoked what’s been called, “a subtle kind of fetishism.”

What did we expect from the Central Saint Martins graduate’s Fall offering? Well, much of the same. His formula seemed to be working. Yet with the collection in front, it’s difficult to not look quite hard for those sensationalist details lauded in previous work. Elements of them are certainly present – cut-outs of exposed skin, lengthened sleeves and a delicate palette – but there is a cleanliness to it. Shirts, though not traditional, have a uniformity. Tailoring plays a considerable role. In fact, were it not for the odd bare chest or back, the majority of these looks tread the line of masculinity with far more certainty than Chin has previously exercised. So, what’s changed?

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Chin AW16: Photography by Nicole Marie Winkler and Styling by Adam Winder

“I always have this sexual drive in my creative process.”

“Most interviews from my previous collection were all about the genderless topic,” he tells us, when we probe on the collection’s references. “For AW16, I tried to take a little of the feminine elements off my designs. I was thinking more about office workers and students, as I wanted to add traces of uniformity, as well as focusing on the garments themselves. Japanese school uniforms offered a wide range of references, from three piece suits to classic working class looks.”

It’s been a busy time for Chin. With his SS16 collection released late last year, his return to the studio was swift. In just two months he brought his fall collection to fruition, and is now working on its production. “The goal of the year is to get that started,” he explains. His ability to work so quickly, he tells us, has come from experience. “The process of research definitely becomes more refined. Once you know what you want to achieve, you kind of know what will work and what won’t. Still, I won’t just focus on one theme when I design. I like to put all my ideas into one collection, which you can see in the range of materials I used for AW16. Generally though, I’ll filter through a range of photography, and pick up ideas on instinct.”

With his experience too, has come a knowledge of what he enjoys working with. Tailoring, for one (suits is where he’d love to see the brand’s identity sit); shirting (“where men look sexiest”) and gentle tones (“because the designs are so loud”). Unquestionably present too, is sex. “I always have this sexual drive in my creative process,” he muses. “I guess that is simply who I am, in life too.”

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Inspiration behind the collection

“CSM taught me to see the industry in a very practical way, and I know how tough the road ahead will be.”

Chin is also a businessman, expressing freely that he prefers people to pay more attention to his garments than the story behind them. For him, the most important aspect is desire: “does a customer want to buy it?” On the question of whether he’d let his ideas be capped if there was enough money on the table, he is clear, “I don’t mind it,” and he is enthusiastic on the recent topic of whether luxury houses can truly sustain six collections a year. “I do not think that is all related to the pressure from fast fashion,” he says.  “There are still designers who enjoy producing six collections or more every year, like Karl Lagerfeld and Donatella Versace. The team and support from a luxury house is massive.” So is that something he would want? “It’s too far for me to think about all that.”

Still, you sense Chin wouldn’t back down from the challenge. Setting up his label in itself has been a steep hill to climb, the most taxing aspect, “getting people to work with and believe in me. But, CSM taught me to see the industry in a very practical way, and I know how tough the road ahead will be.” The brand now moves forward with a slight shift, the label of being a unisex brand one Chin is keen to shake off. His aim though, remains the same:  “to have fun in my design process. It sounds very cliché and basic, but this is something that you might actually forget to do when you are running your own business.”

Words by Hannah Rogers

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