Contrasting painters inspired the Spring Summer 2013 collection by London based womenswear label, Shao Yen.
Synonymous for designer Shao Yen Chen’s bold use of unusual materials, the SS13 collection incorporates his iconic knitwear fusing cutting-edge with commercial appeal.
Born in Yilan, Taiwan, Chen is an inventive, exciting new designer whose trademark is experimentation with unconventional materials and structures. This sensibility of his design is revealed in his CV – he has interned with Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan, and was awarded the 2009 winner of Fashion Weekend/Le Vif Award in Brussels, Belgium with his Central Saint Martin’s BA graduation collection.
The Shao Yen Spring Summer 2013 collection is entitled ‘The Sitter’ and gives us an immediate clue to the artistic nature of the collection and its designer. We are excited by the colour and the loose structures with secreted pleats, all based around a unique and varied selection of fabrics.
The aesthetic reflects the colourful works of Spanish surrealist Joan Miro and the peaceful portraits of the famous Chinese Emperor Qianlong by Italian Jesuit painter Giuseppe Castiglione (just wonderful images – take a look online). The collection takes on the mood of Castiglione’s portraits – calm and low key. But then it becomes adorned with modernist shapes and the Mediterranean colour scheme of canary yellows, gold and electric blues; touches of surrealism come with the headwear with fringing that hides the face, or the chiffon frame-like top with humourous swishes.
This is a fun and wearable collection featuring soft-meets-harsh materials – plastic looking fabrics sit against mesh knits, chiffon and silk, gold and creams.
On the brink of recognition in Europe, Shao Yen is one of those label you should know about. With collaborations with Selfridges and Nicola Formichetti behind him, we asked Shao Yen Chen about his work and designing in London.
FLUX MAGAZINE: You grew up in Taiwan. When did you move to London?
SHAO YEN: I came to London to study at CSM in 2003. I have been here for nearly 10 years now.
FLUX MAGAZINE: How did you first get interested in fashion as a career?
SHAO YEN: I got interested in fashion when I was in high school in Taiwan, but until I came to study and did a couple of internships in London I didn’t think it could be a career for me. Although I realise how hard it is, I decided to give it a try.
FLUX MAGAZINE: Does your Taiwanese background give you an international perspective on fashion and culture? What about politically?
SHAO YEN: When I was growing up in the late 1990s, Taiwan was still pretty much Western-influenced, in terms of fashion. I received most of my fashion education in the UK, but I think I still have an Asian aesthetic.
FLUX MAGAZINE: How does that translate into your collections?
SHAO YEN: I came from a small city with much natural scenery. I think it made me learn to appreciate and observe nature. I love the different textures and layers that I can find in nature. It’s really inspirational.
FLUX MAGAZINE: I read one inspiration for the SS13 collection was images of the Chinese Emperor Qianlong – can you tell us about that?
SHAO YEN: I found a series of paintings of Emperor Qianlong by Italian Jesuit painter Giuseppe Castiglione. I like the calm nature of the paintings but at the same time they are really powerful. This is also why the collection is titled ‘Sitter’. The combination of traditional Chinese content and Western oil painting texture really fascinate me. There is also some reference from Spanish painter Joan Miro. I found similarities in their use of strong, vivid colours and the patterns in their paintings.
FLUX MAGAZINE: I have only seen it in the photos, but the collection includes a really interesting combination of fabrics. Can you tell us about those? How do you source your fabric?
SHAO YEN: I usually work with an agent from Italy. They have really nice selections. The fabrics also inspired me a lot during the designing process. I also source fabrics in shops in London and Taipei.
FLUX MAGAZINE: Where/how can we get our hands on the SS13 collection ?
SHAO YEN: At the moment, this collection is only stocked in Taiwan. I’m hoping to get stockists in the UK and the rest of the world. Sometimes I also do pop-up shops and private order events in London. And I accept personal orders, too.
FLUX MAGAZINE: How is it to be a young designer in London at the moment? Obviously it is extremely competitive, but is there any sense of comraderie?
SHAO YEN: I think London is the best city for young designers to be seen. More and more international designers come here, so it gets more competitive. I’d get together with some of my young designer friends to grumble, but we usually fight on our own.
FLUX MAGAZINE: London Fashion Week has a lot more opportunities for young designers these days. How did the presentation for AW13/14 go this year?
SHAO YEN: I did a fashion film screening at London Fashion Week. It’s the first time that I reveal my collection like this. I hope to have chance to do it again.
FLUX MAGAZINE: Are there any links to ‘The Sitter’ with the new AW13/14 Collection?
SHAO YEN: Not really. But even though each of my collections has different themes, I hope to maintain a sporty or street style in all of them.
For more on Shao Yen see www.shao-yen.com
by Claire Lomax