Gender-ambiguous, relaxed and a little bit retro. This is Chin Menswear. Originally from Taiwan, the recent Central St Martins graduate has drawn inspiration from his time in London to create a Menswear line that embraces androgyny.
The designer’s ethic is unique in the way that he channels what he naturally finds un-appealing, making it a focal-point of his designs and subsequently transforming it into something he finds aesthetically pleasing. In his interview with METAL, Chin talks about colour palettes, 80s inspiration and exploring ideas of the ugly and the beautiful. Chin Menswear is a name you will be hearing a lot more of.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic background.
My name is Chin, and I'm originally from Taiwan. I graduated from Central Saint Martins with a BA menswear last year. I remember I was first drawn to clothes when I was a child. My mom used to twirl in her room every time she bought a new dress. I can’t remember if I wanted to dress my mom or to dress like her but I am sure that was the first time I felt the magic of clothes.
Before I came to Central Saint Martins, I had a BA degree in womenswear in Taiwan. I never thought of doing menswear until I did a project with a textile company. I find lots of energy when I am doing menswear. Maybe it’s simply because I can try on and twirl every time I produce a new garment. I gradually realized that if I truly wanted to be involved in the industry, Central Saint Martins is the only place to be -so I applied for the menswear course.
I am also a 90’s kid and very much influenced by the superstars of the 90s such as Gwen Stefani, the Spice Girls as well as the designers who grew important from the late 90’s, like Tom Ford, Martine Sitbon, Marc Jacobs and the great Miuccia Prada. I admire the designers who strike a good balance between commercial and creative value. Moreover, my sense of colour totally changed during my placement year at Jonathan Saunders. I think he has been a major influence on my recent work in terms of colour.
How exactly has your approach to colour changed since working at Jonathan Saunders?
I always like to use colours but when I was at Jonathan Saunders I saw the unique way he played with colours. He introduced me to off-colours and showed me how to make a good palette. I think what changed the most is that the colours I used to hate are now the colours I want to own.
You recently graduated from Central St. Martins which has an extensive list of successful alumni; how was your experience there and do you feel pressure to attain the same success?
It was absolutely sublime even to be one of the students at CSM.
It definitely challenged my aesthetic and knowledge. I did not know how to research properly until my second year. My class mates would push me and bring out the best in me, everyone always strived to be the best. You learned from each other and influenced each other’s' work and I think that is what makes Central Saint Martins stand out as the best. Everyone is very focused on their work and challenging perceptions of beauty. The tutors make you question yourself again and again which challenges you to be a better designer. Since we’re at the very early stages of the brand, I haven’t really thought about being as successful as the others or whether Chin Menswear will succeed or fail, instead my priority is to find my own unique expression that will emerge through the process of designing.
How has living and studying in London influenced your artistic style?
I would say it’s become more relaxed. Generally speaking, Londoners have a very laid back personality, at least compared to Taipei... Also, people have more freedom to dress as they please in London than any other place in the world. There is no judgment about gender, race or religion, only good taste or bad taste. People don’t take fashion too seriously, which in turn allows more space for creativity. You could even be inspired by an old lady passing by, there’s a huge variety of style on the street at any given time and that makes you want to create yourself.
Tell us a bit about the origins of Chin Menswear. What was the initial inspiration behind the brand?
My aesthetic is evolving with each new collection, but mainly it’s about transformation or development of what I at first considered to be ugly or cheesy. Then, during the process, I would fall in love with the elements. So I would say the brand is about something ugly, something awkward, yet modern with a touch of retro.
I’m interested to know, what elements did you previously find ugly or cheesy but now incorporate into your designs?
Take this season’s collection as an example; I used to think the patch pocket was really ugly. So When I started this collection, one of my main goals was to make the patch pocket a big role in the collection. Also, white and off-white trousers. They are what I considered to be ugly things but during the process of designing I tried to find a solution to make myself more open minded. I think it gives me more space to think and to be creative.
Your collection seems to have a gender-ambiguous identity; the textures, lines and silhouettes have a unisex appeal. Can you envisage both men and women in your designs?
Yes I do, my research or inspirations are mainly women and womenswear, so naturally my designs have a feminine twist. I always loved the idea of a woman wearing a menswear brand. It’s very appealing to me. I remember when Carla Bruni dressed in Dior Homme in 2008 for her album, I totally fell in love with her and the idea of transforming gender stereotypes through clothing.
At one point I suggested to my sponsor that we use a female model to wear the AW15 collection however it would have made it difficult to send the message that these are clothes for men and to sell this aesthetic to a male audience. But the idea will stay in place as the brand grows and we can experiment in that direction.
What or who has inspired your latest collection?
I started with patch colour samples inspired by the great French textile designer and artist Sonia Delaunay (who is having a retrospective at the Tate Modern this spring). Then I found that the suede I used for the collection could reproduce the matte texture of the paintings.
I also looked into the street culture of the late 80s, I found similarities with the samples I made. It tied in with the music and the image of New Order. I think there is quite a lot going on in the collection but I think that is the spirit of 80’s. So I just wanted to give it a go. It is my re-interpretation of the 80s with a contemporary approach.
If you had the opportunity to dress anyone in your designs, who would it be?
Max Irons and Jennifer Lawrence.