Involved in ecological issues since his childhood, Wei Hung Chen is now struggling to make his work sustainable and to avoid generating waste by creating and constructing garments that are modular and interchangeable. Through his approach towards design, the Taiwanese creative – who graduated from Parons in New York City – has developed unique shapes that allow people to construct and deconstruct their outfits according to their needs and desires. We chat with the designer about the future of fashion, the environment and what can we do to make it better.
Could you please introduce yourself?
I am Wei, a fashion designer of womenswear and accessories.
What was your dream job when you were a child? What motivated you to become a fashion designer?
While growing up I was always fascinated by how things work and why do they work the way they do – I was that annoying kid constantly asking ‘why’. How fashion’s capability of constructing one’s identity is a never-ending question that I have been and still am trying to understand. How a look can determine how we feel or how others perceive us is very fascinating to me, since first impressions are incredibly important.
Does your Taiwanese background inspire you during your creation process? Can you talk about the differences between fashion in Taiwan and fashion in New York City?
I think more so than my Taiwanese background, my parents are the ones who helped me build my creative mind. My dad specifically: he is very investigative in nature, and he never gives up until he finds an answer. That influenced my way of looking at things and influences the way I approach design. I believe both locations (New York and Taiwan) nurture an immense amount of unique talents, but the main difference between the two when it comes to fashion is acceptance. New York is extremely welcoming when it comes to diversity of dress codes, new ideas and concept, whereas Taiwan isn’t.
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How have things changed since the day you moved to New York?
One of the things I love about being in New York is that the city gives the freedom for creative individuals to express their ideas. In a way, it allows everyone to have his or her unique voice in the creative business, be it small or big. I really appreciate people’s constant desire to innovate or create new items in the city.
Your Thesis collection is particular but also wonderful insofar as all pieces were shaped to match each other. Where and how did this idea to create clothes able to be used and mixed together come up to you? Is this the way you would like to follow with your upcoming collections?
It’s a combination of problem solving and selfish need. One of the biggest problems in the fashion industry is the amount of waste that it creates on a daily basis. The need to satisfy consumers’ instant gratification of purchasing an item has twisted and damaged not only the systematic cycle of this industry but the environment as well.
The other reason behind this collection is a personal one. I have always mixed, matched and styled garments differently from what they were intended to be. That motivated me to create a collection that is more versatile and adaptable, and in which all the pieces can integrate and create different looks based on the wearer’s needs.
This idea to conceive a modular garment is just amazing. How did you meet these new techniques and methods to redefine and reconstruct garments?
The concept behind the collection is to create pieces that are completely interchangeable and can interact with all the other pieces in the collection. It’s about allowing the wearers to construct/deconstruct and manipulate these garments to suit their needs and desires. It’s about having these basic silhouettes and finding ways to maximize their modularity and interchangeability to fit the wearers’ need.
Could you please speak about your ecological and practical approach towards design?
Since I was a kid, my parents would constantly discuss about waste, and not just within the fashion industry but also within industries that involve consumer goods. So I was brought up questioning the necessity of consumerism and the absurdity level it has reached. Being in Parsons, we were constantly encouraged to find effective manners to combat this behaviour and find sustainable or ecological methods to produce garments. This encouragement has allowed me to investigate and create an idealistic approach of creating/constructing garments, hoping to solve this issue that resulted in this collection.
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How are the people wearing your garments?
The purpose and concept behind the collection is to allow people to wear the pieces however they want them to look. They can choose the minimal way and wear only the top/dress, or they can add on as many things as they like onto the garment to get an ambiguous shape. It’s all about customization.
As a young designer, how would you describe your achievements? And what would be Wei Hung Chen next challenges to spotlight?
It has been great. I never expected to have garnered this amount of support from my peers and the industry. The next challenge for me as a designer is definitely to bring these series of garments into the consumer’s world. There is still a long way to go for me as a designer when it comes to engaging the pubic with this conversation.
Thus, what can we expect from your next collection and future projects in general?
I recently co-founded an accessories label with a fellow designer, Raiheth Rawla. We create limited edition bags that are artistic reinterpretations of everyday objects to bring focus to the often ignored. The intention behind this label is to re-establish the meaning of owning a product, to allow the consumers to cherish and keep the product since none of them are going to be reproduced under any circumstances.
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