“EVERYTIME I SHOW MY COLLECTION, I WANT IT TO BE FOUR DIMENSIONAL, INCLUDING TEXTURE AND MOVEMENT. I CAN HEAR A VISUAL. I CAN HEAR A SURROUNDING ATMOSPHERE.”
Unlike the simplicity of her optimistic outlook, Chen’s designs are clustered, playful and bold with a “rebellious character.” A creative powerhouse, Chen and her collections always begin with a very strong concept. “I don’t think I’m that good at ready-to-wear,” Chen reveals. “I’m more into art, design installations, textiles, something with more of a concept or idea,” she goes on to say. Last season’s ‘Youthquake’ – a concept coined in the 1960s by then-Vogue editor-in-chief, Diane Vreeland – has developed in its punky and playful adolescence into the next stage in the process of growing up: the angsty teenager. So, AW16 is inspired by Chinese Kung-Fu fighting, and in true Angel Chen style, she walks me through her decision from the day before to shave her entire head, leaving just a few strands of long hair, which she attributes as being characteristic of the Chinese Kung-Fu fighting aesthetic. “Recently, I’ve been pretty violent in that I’ve been watching lots of violent movies and listening to strong Punk and Indie Rock,” Chen resumes. “Because my last collection was about Punk and Youthquake, it’s continuing that but in a different story. It’s also about 80’s and 90’s subcultures in Japan and China.” Given that, moments before, Chen had just described her collections as, “definitely a reflection of myself,” the question is asked as to whether or not she was feeling angry or angsty during the design process. Before having finished being asked the question, Chen’s very quick response is: “Oh, no, no no! Definitely not angry. I’m not an angry person.” Like she said, she’s Joy from Inside Out.
In keeping with the strong concepts behind her collections, Chen’s catwalk presentations follow suit. For AW16, she proposes Kung-Fu boxing rings and trained fighters sparring with each other, instead of models walking passively down the runway. “Everytime I show my collection, I want it to be four dimensional, including texture and movement. I can hear a visual. I can hear a surrounding atmosphere. I can even see the place in my head. It just suddenly appears to me,” Chen explains. It’s a relevant topic of discussion given the currently fluctuating reality for the fashion show today. It’s no wonder then, that, with regards to design collaborations, Chen also previously said: “the further from fashion, the better.” Alongside working on the Angel Chen label, there are also a number of projects with Uber, Airbnb and H. Lorenzo. For Chen, like many others, it’s no longer enough for the fashion show to simply parade the most recent collection. Perhaps, this is exactly why Chen was featured in ’30 Under 30’; the scope of her design abilities aren’t confined to the parameters of one industry, but many.