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Beyond region and time, Wen Pan’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection exudes roughness and fragility while evoking femininity through organic and delicately distressed materials. With Poetic Resistance as the initial foundation for the label, the collection confidently shines a light on the working class with the use of proportion and pattern play. Researching vintage work-wear and traces of past lives, Wen Pan’s collection celebrates imperfection, carelessness and strength in softness. In a world where perfection is a primary motive, the namesake label defies the conventional by redefining work-wear and finding beauty amongst imperfections.
Before launching your namesake label, what had been your greatest takeaway from your professional and academic background?
Switching from a major in Chinese Literature to Fashion Design, it was evident that there was a huge difference between the two programs. Since I’ve overcome this gap, I have been moving so far. Making this change has been my greatest takeaway and I am delighted with it.
Graduating from Central Saint Martins in Womenswear, do you believe that school can limit the creativity of emerging designers or does creativity become an academic discipline in its entirety?
I did not experience any limitation during my time at Central Saint Martins. I believe creativity has become an academic discipline, as being unique is more encouraged than showing creativity on purpose. At Central Saint Martins, we were encouraged to be true to ourselves and discover what we really believed in. As long as you keep searching deep enough within yourself, you will always create something unique naturally. I also believe that creativity can be fulfilled in many aspects, not just making something look exaggerated.

On one end, your garments set a fragile tone while the other exudes roughness through textures and pattern play. Do you believe in achieving perfection in your work?
For each piece, I play with texture and proportion as well as with layers and shapes. During this process, I always find beauty in the random and imperfect.
Given the raw and chaotic yet delicate elements in your brand imagery, is there a particular message you wish to convey to your audience?
To celebrate imperfection, carelessness and the strength in softness. 
Your Fall/Winter 2019 collection exudes fragility and resistance, as traces of working girls in factories, oil stains and utility-wear are a key source of inspiration. When searching for materials for this collection, were there particular elements you were looking for while developing this concept? How did you experiment with chosen materials given the raw approach to the collection?
I researched vintage work-wear that had traces of past lives, so the details presenting utility such as the belts and metal D-rings are new elements for this collection. I observed vintage photos of female workers and captured how such young beautiful girls wore work-wear so well. I also did a lot of fittings in order to observe and imagine how a dress and trench coat could be distressed after being worn while working for a long time; this is something I always do for each collection. Deconstructed structures made with pretty and delicate materials continue to be key elements throughout my work.

While the expressive works from John Minton have drawn inspiration for the Fall/Winter 2019 collection, how did you use his paintings to fuel the progression of your creative process? Did these artworks have any influence in the fabrications that were chosen at hand?
These paintings are from the 1940s-1950s, which is the same era for my research. I am touched by the dissociative and melancholic mood in his works that are used to describe the working class. Colours in the Fall/Winter 2019 collection were inspired by the tones used in his artworks. I sourced brushed and textured materials, which were inspired by his foggy brushes, along with linen and cotton blends, which are elements that are present in vintage work-wear.
Distressed and asymmetrical detailing along with the use of organic fabrications pose a heavy presence throughout your garments. Are there any external outlets that fuel the inspiration behind your creative process?
My inspiration stemmed from traces of human lives. I photographed these traces as I found random and imperfect layers of organic materials such as cotton bed sheets, linen curtains, canvas interiors and so on. So, the presence of organic fabrics was drawn from natural choice and my initial inspiration. 
Given the experimental take throughout your collection, do you have a starting point and medium when working on designs, or are they mainly created on a trial-and-error basis?
I always start from a trace in my surroundings. This trace can indicate a mood, a scene, or a story. I research deeply on the meaning behind it, which helps in the decision-making process behind chosen silhouettes, fabrics, techniques, etc. Also, I do a lot of fitting and draping, as I am always fascinated by how garments move on the body physically, and how traces can be left on these garments. I interpret these traces in order to create a whole image.

What do you think differentiates Wen Pan from other designers today?
We have our distinct style and approach. We provide an alternative option between grunge and oriental aesthetics.
Wen Pan poses great emphasis on ‘poetic resistance.’ As a designer, what does this mean to you and how does it stimulate the direction of your projects?
This was the starting point of this label. I was in Shanghai and saw an old ‘nail house’ standing in pink and blue dust, with busy roads surrounding. It seemed so isolated, and I could feel a resistance through that scene, as it was pretty and rough, quiet but strong. This aesthetic and spirit are deeply rooted in Chinese culture, which can be found in many Chinese poems, paintings and artworks that date as far back as one thousand years ago, like in Seven Sages of Bamboo. I want to present this spirit through clothing.
Are there any trends you believe will help shape the future of sustainable fashion? 
Authenticity and diversity.

How would you define the significance of brands like yours to those who aren’t familiar with a more ethical approach to fashion?
My brand focuses on real lives and thoughts that link the past and the present. We make garments that people can find practical yet alternative, which provide a good opportunity to invite people to learn more about ethical approaches to fashion when they are trying these garments on.
As you evoke an experimental take on your collections, do you hope to leave room for consumers to interpret your brand identity?
I always want to make clothes that people can interpret through their own lives. I make semi-deconstructed pieces that allow the wearer to infuse garments with their own movements and experiences; every piece should be personally connected to the wearer. Having my garments stocked at some reputable places including Selfridges, Opening Ceremony and Young British Designers provides this opportunity. I am excited to see more and more people find themselves relaxed, pretty and cool while wearing our garments.
Given the intimate and organic nature of your work, how do you hope to see Wen Pan evolve in years to come?
I will keep my own pace and take this journey in a relaxed way. In the near future, we hope to produce products in different categories apart from fashion, especially in interiors, which will allow us to build an overall aesthetic system.

Amanda Breeze

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