You’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard of Yiyu Chen.. yet. But not for long. The Taichung-based designer, who’s just won Denmark’s first fashion technology competition, Aarhus Walks on Water, says she’s has always been interested in clothing but this was her first time integrating technology into her work. “Fashion for me is appealing in both substance and significance level. I really enjoy the process of making each piece of garments, taking care of details and trying to present them in a proper way. On the other hand, the fact that fashion is always evolving with society and reflecting civilized life, make it a difficult task for a designer to be always relevant. There’s always something to learn.”
While this might have been the first time Chen has solely worked with tech, her work experience includes working alongside the legendary Iris Van Herpen – undoubtedly one of the trailblazers in the industry. “To work in Iris Van Herpen’s atelier was very challenging but with a lot of fun. Sometimes we need to experiment with different materials and try to figure out how to achieve the ideal results. Iris is really calm and friendly; I truly respect that she always knows what she wants and has a clear standard of quality. The experience taught me a lot on how a designer should insist and persist during design and producing process, the amazing results on Iris’s show coming with no accident. This experience makes me more open to any challenge and willing to cooperate with people in different fields.”
As part of the AWOW competition, designers were tasked with creating four pieces representing their own individual style, and updating another existing four pieces (supplied by a brand partner) with technology. Chen’s take on the challenge was Rare: a six-piece collection inspired by a walk through a dark, wet forest, seeing the eyes of forest inhabitants watching you through the bushes, raindrops hanging on the tips of leaves and stones shining in the moonlight. She used light as an embellishment, subtly integrating LEDs with Swarovski crystals as part of the patterning on the fabrics. “Since I don’t have too much experience in the tech, I try to integrate what I capable of with what I am good at. So I begin with my imagination, and try to find materials that could display the effect I want. I see the lights as part of embellishment elements and try to apply them as invisible parts of the designs. The lights should have their own unique quality, for example, adding dynamic movements to fabric prints or emphasize the shimmering effect of Swarovski crystals. They should add extra layers to the visual impact; compared to prints, texture or tailoring detail, the lights are much more vibrant and violent, I use them really carefully,” she explains. “The concept of this collection relies a lot on natural beauty, and I intended to create a mysterious atmosphere. In my opinion, it was important to have every elements of the collection align with core aesthetic, regardless it is part of tech element or tailoring detail.”
To create the collection, Chen taught herself how to integrate technology into her garment by watching tutorials online as well as with some help from family and friends. “Eventually, I had to ask my dad and some friends to teach me how to chose the right IC chips or solid the connection of circuits. During the process we had a big discussion on how to keep the light system stable but still aesthetically pleasing. AWOW allowed me to integrate elements that I am not so familiar with and to reflect on my cognition of fashion and clothing. As a designer, I keep trying to explore and understand fashion system, as well as myself.”
The ArtEZ graduate thinks that fashion tech is about “new materials, new production cycles or even design processes involving digital methods. Fashion tech could be much more than textile or equipment. Fashion today is no longer about mainstream aesthetics or several big houses. It has become so democratic that everyone can have their own interpretation, and I believe the future of fashion should be shaped under collective interaction of people and society.”
Speaking of the future, Chen’s is looking bright. She is interested in collaborating with progressive, original brands and also learn more about business construction in fashion industry before launching her own line. As they say, remember the name.
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