We chat to the eponymous designer of Chin Menswear and take a closer look at his SS16 collection.
The Chin Menswear aesthetic is all about something a little awkward: it’s the kind of design that plays with ideas of ugliness and dorkiness but also throws in a very healthy dose of femininity. There are bow-like ribbon ties on a number of pieces, collarless blouse-shirts and flesh exposing cutouts aplenty, not to mention a plunging neckline or two. But beyond these obvious womenswear touch points, there is another current running through the pieces; an off-beat, Prada-esque dimension that shows through in the contrast stitching on a flared pant or a mac made from a grey suiting fabric.
Chin’s designs run the gamut from subversive editorial fodder (a sleeveless dress-coat hybrid with pink paneling and a great multitude of buttons) to the wearable avant garde – a black shirt with a slit back, half sleeves and no shortage of Drake-in-Craig-Green style straps is a personal favourite. We got to sit down with Chin himself to talk about his creative process, the problem with the Phoebe Philo effect, and why Scottish tennis supremo Andy Murray is his dream customer.
Do you remember the first piece of clothing you designed?
A single strap cocktail dress I hand sewed for my little sister’s Barbie when I was 11.
What is special about fashion to you?
I was aware of the fact that as a boy I dressed differently to the others around me. And in your childhood, to be standing out in that way isn’t usually a good thing. However, this freedom of choice helped me to shape who I am. I knew that I wanted to be a fashion designer since I was 11. There is a quote I really love — “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself”. I think that is what fashion does to me. It stimulates me and makes me want to be a better person.
What do you think your designs say about the people wearing them?
They have confidence, are true to themselves and have a sense for seduction.
Who inspires you creatively?
It could be anyone really but mostly my friends, young people I saw when out and about in London and generally people who just know what they are doing. I really appreciate people who are both professional and confident but have little attitude.
Who would you love to see wearing your designs?
Musicians and Athletes, especially athletes, for example: Andy Murray.
I would also love to see a diverse range of people wearing my designs, to mix and match them with each person’s own personal language. I am excited to see how people will translate my designs in real life and to be surprised by what different personalities could do and say with the clothes.
Can you take us through your creative process?
I often start with an occasion or a specific piece of imagery. I think about where they are going, this research helps to form the silhouette. Most of the time I get ideas from working over things again and again, that is really where the collection really takes shape. Then there is the experimentation of details and manipulations of fabrics. Sometimes I turn down all the ideas I have developed, this is actually what happened this season. I woke up one day and realised that I actually disliked every one of the piece I had did, that was three weeks before the look book shoot. So I had to re-do everything in three weeks, but I am really happy with the outcome. I always doubt myself which can be quite frustrating sometimes but somehow it takes me in the right direction. I also challenged myself to do draping, something that I felt was a weakness of mine, this forced me to step out of my comfort zone and see what could I get by intuition.
How do you think fashion has changed since you started?
I think everyone is at a very high level. However, the ideas lack diversity especially since we have a lot more fashion labels than 10 years ago. Everyone has very similar aesthetic nowadays. I am very confused by the Celine inspired collections each season and there is actually quite a lot of these. I don’t think fashion has to be that original, we all are influenced by the designers we look up to, but it is just sad to see how these people quite obviously make literal copies of other people’s successes.
We used to love both dramatic collections and minimalism and now everything is about wardrobe and making fashion more accessible. I do love clothes that are beautiful and wearable but I also miss the “wow” factor that I used to get when I looked at fashion-week photos on Style.com back in the good old days.
What is you ultimate goal?
To build up my own art, fashion and sport school in Taiwan. The education system in Taiwan really is a nightmare, it has to be replaced immediately. I want to share the experience of what I learnt at Central Saint Martins to the kids in Taiwan who can not afford to study abroad. I definitely want to inspire them to create the life they long for, to enjoy themselves and focus on what they think they should be doing. The time in your childhood is so precious, I think the kids should have more options than mathematics and science.
What inspired your SS16 collection specifically?
The starting point was based on Christer Strömholm’s “Les Amies de Place Blanche”, a photographic documentation of transsexuals in Paris in the 1960s- A book about obtaining the freedom to choose your own life and identity as well as the photographs of Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus that tell a similar story. We all have sides of ourselves that we only want to show at specific occasions or to a certain audience and these together all make up who we really are, I admire people showing that without any fear, that is what the collection is all about. I also feel that night-time bar and club scene, and the dating scenes also give my designs a bit of sexual motivation.
How did you decide to step out and create your own label?
I never really thought about doing my own label. It was never my dream. After my graduation last year, I was looking for a designer position in the industry just like most of the graduates were. Then I got this offer from my sponsor to create my own brand, it was probably the best offer I could get at that moment, and that’s how everything started.
Describe your aesthetic in 3 words.
Sexy, Classic, Calm.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Nicole Maria Winkler
STYLING: Jack Borkett
SET DESIGN: Kimberley Harding
HAIR AND MAKE UP: Lauren Reynolds
MODEL: Aidan W @ Tomorrow Is Another Day