New Waves: Jim Chen-Hsiang Hu
It came as a surprise for the Central Saint Martins BA Fashion graduate Jim Chen-Hsiang Hu when it was announced, at some point during the final runway show, that he was the 1st prize winner of his year. Originally from Taiwan, Jim approaches his practice with a particular dedication and humbleness, while pushing the boundaries for technological innovation with his breathtaking laser-cut dresses and multi-dimensional garment – always with an attention to elegance and grace.
Models: Marianna Janowicz and Livvy Lightfoot // Photographer: Zi Yu // Make up artist: Agnes (Shu-Han) Hsieh
Photographer: Mick Abela and Jim Chen-Hsiang Hu
“I WANT TO MAKE SOMETHING THAT POTENTIALLY COULD BENEFIT SOCIETY.”
Growing up in Kaoshiung, Jim took an interest in art and design from an early age, leading him to study Fine Art in his home country. He was unsatisfied with the course, however, and worked full-time as a graphic designer for a year. Central Saint Martins’s foundation course appeared on the horizon mostly in the attempt to escape Taiwan: “I felt suffocated,” he tells us over the phone in a reflected and concise manner – “I had to go.” The decisive moment that made him embark on a BA in Fashion was when he, on one unlucky day, lost his laptop with all his graphic work. “It was a big turn of my life,” he says.
As his final collection shows, Jim’s approach to colour and textile, and design as a whole, is strongly conceptual. He chose a bloody red to run through his collection, a colour he considers as ”a basis of fashion.” While casting an interesting shadow, the uniform colour-choice most of all makes space for a deeper textual investigation beyond colour – the materiality of textiles. The collection was a development of his Turning Point project at the end of his first year, in which he created a stunning sculptural piece out of thin red thread. The project led to a longer research on sculptural structures, resulting in his final presentation of light garments from another dimension.
“I FEEL THAT FASHION IS MOSTLY A LOT OF SHIFTING OF THE SAME ELEMENTS – IT’S NOSTALGIC, AND TOO NARROW FOR ME.”
While many people design and dress to make a statement of personality, the underlying force of Jim’s practice is an ongoing interest in technology. His unique methodology of 3D weaving creates intricate structures of fabric, resulting in a visually deceptive, seemingly weightless three-dimensional grid attached to the model. ”I wanted to introduce one more angle or dimension into design,” he explains. “Visually, that appears as a third dimension in the clothes.” He is interested in visualising scientific phenomena, motion in space and structural systems. “It’s really my own conversation with that material,” he says of his design process, which isn’t necessarily tied to fashion. “I feel that fashion is mostly a lot of shifting of the same elements – it’s nostalgic, and too narrow for me.” He mentions Issey Miyake as his favorite designer, and discusses his interest in design systems – systems that can potentially contribute to innovation in larger contexts. Studying his creations, it is easy to imagine the use of such technology in a variety of other fields. “I want to make something that potentially could benefit society.”
Photography courtesy of 1 Granary
“ON THE BA FASHION, IT’S EASY TO FEEL A BIT SURPRESSED.”
Post-graduation, Jim looks back positively at his Central Saint Martins experience, as it provided more freedom and allowance to develop his individual voice, as compared to his native Taiwan. Yet, he admits to be longing for even more space for individual expression: “I wish there had been more options in terms of projects. Not everyone is going to fit the same brief. It’s easy to feel a bit surpressed.” He confesses that his degree was a primarily individualistic experience, in which he could push his sculptural innovations and design aesthetic to the maximum.
Jim has received an impressive amount of attention for his graduation project, yet he is hesitant about heading on to found his own label. “It’s a question I ask myself as well,” he says of the future, as he is currently working on several plans and projects. “It could be within a company, although I’m not sure which company would fit. It could be my own brand, inside the academy, or something completely different.” No matter the path, be sure to hear more from Jim Chen-Hsiang Hu.