Introduced last season, Feng Chen Wang is another of our new brands for 2020, emphasizing our love and support for Asian designers and their unique vision of contemporary menswear. Graduated in Fashion Menswear in the Royal College of Arts in London, Wang has been creating a distinct identity within the business, through an emotional and structured aesthetic which earned her nominations for some of the industry's most renowned prizes.
Her AW20 collection has recently arrived at the store, carrying on the designer's complex interpretation of menswear staples, materialized through overlapping layers, plays on volume, color and graphic effects. The underlying intricasy of each garment goes way beyond aesthetics, placing a heavy onus on production and construction, which are often required to provide unusual combinations of traditional techniques. A perfect example is the oversized jacquard down jacket that we've just received. Feng Chen Wang has also been an adamant player in changing the world's perception of "Made in China", showcasing the country's century-old traditional techniques and know-how, along with its rich cultural heritage.
We had the chance to have a virtual Q&A with the designer to get a better understanding of her background, design processes and inspiration behind the "Hope of Dawn" AW20 collection. Here's what she had to say:
WW: What sparked your interest in fashion?
FCW: I grew up in rural China near the sea, in a province call Fujian in the South with lots of traditional culture right by the mountains and the river. My earliest fashion memory isn’t directly linked to the fashion industry, but when I was around 7 years old, I was watching the Japanese cartoon Sailor Moon, and I really loved the moment that the character changes her clothes in a second based on thoughts! That is when I started drawing people with different outfits.
Since then my journey has taken me to London where I graduated with an MA Menswear at the Royal College of Art earning a nomination for the LVMH Prize and showing at both New York Fashion Week and London Fashion Week where I am currently based.
WW: What is the inspiration or theme behind the AW20 collection titled "Hope Of Dawn"?
FCW: The colours of the collection take inspiration from the dawn I witnessed when climbing the Wuyi Mountains, in northern Fujian province, China, close to my hometown: darker, cooler shades such as icy greys and blues give way to brighter, warmer hues such as fiery reds. Meanwhile, the feeling of the dawn is expressed through various graphic patterns.
Continuing to explore my Chinese heritage, I looked at my name and the characters that comprise it. These characters are abstracted and then articulated through the layering of fabric – arranged like the characters are written, one stroke at a time – across trench coats, puffer jackets, knitwear and shirts; all of which are handmade. I also looked at Chinese medicine, specifically the worlds of acupuncture and herbal tea, which relate to the themes of hope and wellness. Using maps of the meridian system
(which is about a path through which the life-energy known as “qi” flows), clothes are embellished with jade and agate – placed at acupoints to foster physical and mental wellbeing.
Pigments meanwhile are created from herbal tea, with ingredients sourced from my local community in Fujian – not only providing a sustainable alternative to traditional clothing dyes, but helping my hometown’s economy.
WW: Your Chinese heritage is very present in this collection, from the concept to the materials and techniques used. How important is it for you to bring Chinese culture into your creations?
FCW: My journey started back in 2015 with my graduate collection where I was inspired by my father's health issues which made me look into pharmaceutical practices. When launching my SS18's 'Made in China' Collection, Feng Chen Wang was described as being an “international Chinese brand” and this made me realise that by sharing my Chinese cultural heritage I could become an ambassador and help redefine the definition of 'Made in China'.
In the SS20 Collection we continued this journey by working with local and small-scale factories and communities in China to support and sustain their craft; working with artisans to continue passing down traditional craftsmanship that has developed over hundreds of years in China.
AW20 is about the landscape around the Wuyi mountains before dawn and the link between natives plants that grow on the hillside which are used to make natural garment dye and traditional Chinese medicine. China is full of rich history and craftsmanship and I’m very proud to bring Chinese culture to an International audience.
WW: What are the biggest challenges you face when creating a collection?
FCW: After I graduated from Royal College of Art there was so much interest in my first collection that it made sense to set up my own studio and start commercialising the brand. It was a challenge and we keep learning, but I’m glad we made that jump. I think it is about building up the whole company strategy and team, rather than specific collections as each department is crucial for success, from design, to marketing, to production to sales. But everything is changing and older ways of working need to be updated, so we are focusing much more on DTC (Direct to Consumer) as a way to communicate with our customers directly.
WW: With the increasing awareness of the environmental impact of fashion, are you taking any measures to be a more sustainable brand?
FCW: We have been aligned with sustainable policies at Feng Chen Wang since I started my graduate collection. One of our main fabric suppliers in China only stocks fabrics that are left over from mills all around the world which we go to every season as a method to create less waste and find beauty in the second-hand. For various collaboration projects with Levi's and Converse, as well as our main line show pieces have always picked and selected second hand garments to create new pieces and give them a new life.
For instance, the collaboration we did in AW18 was with a factory, where we used their 'defaulted' shirts from a production to create our runway pieces.
We currently have a collection exclusively available on our website called ReWork as it upcycles past seasons stock and fabrics into new garments. And this year we were recognised for our sustainable practices by the International
Woolmark Prize as a 2020 finalist.
WW: Who are your biggest influences?
FCG: It might sound like a cliche, but the most inspiring people in my life are my friends and family. Rei Kawakubo is my favourite designer, as she is doing the best job as a female designer.
Discover the full collection here