A heralded name on London Fashion Week Men's schedule, Feng Chen Wang creates clothing that is functional but conceptual, offering a new point of view on menswear. Inspired and dictated by her personal experiences and discoveries, the young designer's collections possess a certain intimacy - think dyes derived from plants in the Wuyi Mountains (in the province of Fujian where Chen Wang grew up) and Chinese fabrics inspired by clothing her mother wore.
In this spotlight interview, we talk modern men, 3D-draping techniques and what it means to be a Chinese international brand.
Type of Brand:
Where did you grow up? How did this place shape or inform you?
I grew up in the South of China in a province called Fujian, in the countryside near the sea. Several collections have been inspired by my hometown. AW19 tells my mum's story about raising her family; for SS20 I worked with the local community to recreate a resist-dye technique which is more than a century old. AW20 is inspired by the landscape around the Wuyi Mountains before dawn while drawing on the area's native plants that are used to make natural dye and in traditional Chinese medicine.
Your earliest fashion memory is…
It isn't directly linked to the fashion industry, but when I was around seven years old I was watching the Japanese cartoon Sailor Moon and really loved the moment when the central character changes her clothes in a split second. Her clothes changed based on her thoughts! That is when I started drawing people with different outfits; I really enjoyed it.
You debuted at New York Fashion Week for Spring/ Summer 2016, but now you're a fixture on the official London Fashion Week Men's schedule. Why the change of city?
From the beginning, I have received such amazing support from both NYFW and LFW particularly through VFILES and Fashion East, but there was a practical consideration: our studio is in London. I love this multi-cultural city with its huge cultural relevance and creative industries that innovate and inspire me.
What does your studio look like?
I have a London studio and a Shanghai studio. My London studio is near London Fields and close to Broadway Market. The London studio is a smaller space, but I like it a lot as the team sit close to each other and we share many ideas throughout the day. My Shanghai showroom is based in the city centre, in an area called Xintiandi. We open it to the public every Friday and Saturday for studio sales. It's a great way to learn about our customer and to speak with them face to face.
What songs do you have on repeat in your studio?
Yellow Magic Orchestra is always on my playlist, and recently I've loved listening to Reverie Band and Isaac Gracie.
Who is the Feng Chen Wang customer?
In my head, anyone can be a Feng Chen Wang customer. Even though my collections are categorised as menswear, it is unisex. We have a lot of female customers who have been following us throughout the years. The truth is, there is no specific age or gender or body that the Feng Chen Wang brand is designed for. Our customers come from many parts of the world, from many walks of life.
Your aesthetic has been described as "authentic, emotional and multidimensional", but how do you see it?
For me these words truly sum up my experience and visual language of the real stories and inspirations that surround me. With the AW20 collection, I was inspired by a trip back to Fujian for the annual Qingming festival, in which people pay respect to our ancestors. I was reminded of the dresses my grandmother used to wear, which were made from a blue-and-white fabric known as lanyinhuabu. I made many trips to search for the people who still make this fabric and, after visiting five villages, I finally found a workshop. I didn't want to just take their fabric and design clothes with it, so I ended up collaborating with them to harness their technique to create the exclusive fabric that we used in the collection.
Do you consider your brand to be Chinese, English or simply international?
Feng Chen Wang is a Chinese international brand.
What does your creative process look like?
I create many of the signature pieces with my own hands using a 3D-draping technique, which is similar to when you use your hands to make sculpture. I love the different silhouettes this process creates.
What creative references do you refer to again and again?
I don't refer to the same things again and again, but I do like the arts and various installations. Sometimes I will refer the colours from a painting, and sometimes I will refer the structure from a sculpture.
Shop your own line. What are three of your favourite pieces?
From the SS20 collection:
Is travel a source of inspiration?
Undoubtedly. I live between London and Shanghai; travel is a big part of my life. Every country gives me an energy that is different and brings new perspective.
Three destinations on your travel wish list…
Where is your favourite place in the world and why?
The Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, my hometown. Not just because of the landscape, but because of the people and culture, the architecture and its beautiful landscape.
What are you reading right now?
A book called Chinese Movie Magazine by Paul Fonoroff and Apartamento, Issue 23.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Go out to see the world and find out who you are.
Mini-Guide to Xiamen, Fujian
Miss Zhao's Shop
Shapowei Art Zone, an area filled with artists' studios, a skate park and boutiques.
Xiamen Bicycle Skyway - cycle along the world's longest elevated cycle path.