Wen Ting Chen, Taiwanese designer, each collection by her design are full of strong stories and have the ability to penetrate people’s the mind. She now living in Germany and her latest collection is using an important philosophy in Chinese history; Taoist, as the theme of her latest design.
Taoist is a philosophical thinking and is thousands of years ago from the modern society, but the Wen Ting Chen made a time travel and brought it back from history to present. She used her phenomenal design skills to combined philosophy and fashion further developed her new sustainable clothing line. From the past to the future, we’ve had a chance to ask Wen Ting Chen, how she process design and why used Taoist on her clothes. Through her personal description, we have a chance to explore this fashion time traveller from Taiwan.
1. What is the theme of this collection?
The concept of this collection is through the ancient Taoist philosophy to create the modern and cultural connotation of the perpetual. The challenge of this season is how to combine the Taiwan’s cloth technology and the traditional embroidery skills. I want to prove that humanism and technological development can coexist and that both are indispensable to the development of sustainable fashion. This time, the fabrics are made of 100% recycled Recycled Polyester by EVEREST Textile Co., Ltd, conforming to international certifications such as ‘Blue Sign’ and ‘Öko-tex100’. I tried to use a single material whenever possible to design each garment in the future. The possibility of making clothing no longer has only a one-off life cycle.
Because who says sustainable fashion can only be organic casual clothes? I think through this design, sportswear and fabrics can also have a more diverse look, so I cooperated with the historical embroidery company, G-Colours for functional fabrics to be a part of the spirit of the traditional embroidery craftsman.
The bodyguard of Taiwan’s god is the main styling reference for this collection. I use their image as an inspiration, and I hope this series can also be like them. Fast fashion has the ability to protect traditional cultural values. During my research, I found that Taiwan lacked in the preservation of folk culture. Therefore, I conducted a field investigation and contacted JIANG MING LYU who is an expert of local folklore, to understand the meaning, structure and their outfit details. I think that when designers refer to some kind of traditional culture and history, it is the basic responsibility to thoroughly understand their cultural connotation.
The traditional costumes of the bodyguard of Taiwan’s God include many different details such as tie-rope structure and complex dress patterns. It’s like attending a holy ceremony, which has completely different values in comparison with the modern T-shirt that can be taken off anytime and anywhere. The "complicated" and "slow" aspects of these designs bring me a concept of rebellion within fast fashion.
2. Does Taoist mean anything to you?
My Master's dissertation topic was to explore the relationship between Taoist and sustainable fashion.
When I came across the topic of green fashion in Berlin, I found that it was a trending issue in European but not in Asian culture, so I kept asking myself what exactly does sustainability mean in my culture?
However, while everyone was keen to find answers through technology, I chose to go back 5,000 years ago to find the answer. I wonder how people could calculate carbon footprint when they didn’t have this technology and science that we have now. How did our ancestors protect the environment? How did they educate future generations?
The Taoist philosophy actually coincided with the 'Cradle to Cradle’ proposed by today's German people. The Taoist philosophy embodies the integration of aesthetics and environmental protection and affects design aesthetics in Asia.
Lao Tzu mentioned the methodology of reflecting Taoism as follows: "merciful, second-frugal, third, not the first.”
This has brought me a deep influence. I hope future sustainable clothing can achieve Lao Tzu's philosophy, as merciful as the designs, feeling the world, and connecting with the soul. For manufacturing guidelines, choose a safe fabric and do not harm the environment. Stay away from cheap mass production and pay more attention to product quality with a humble heart.
3. Do you find it difficult to create a new future from the history?
The concept of modern everlasting environmental protection that I put forward already existed in the ancient Chinese philosophy five thousand years ago, and indeed many foreigners challenged it such as belief-based scientists and anthropocentric theorists ... and so on. I think it is even more necessary for human beings to embrace both science and technology and the future while being more careful. Consideration should be given to the values of history and tradition. I want to prove that perpetuation and environmental protection can not only be evaluated by science but also by numbers. It should be a belief, a life philosophy.
However, because of cultural differences, many people are interested in oriental culture. Many people also voiced their opposition. Through this experience, I also learned that it is not necessary to ask everyone to agree with your point of view. If you can use your point of view, it makes sense that the seeds of a person who questions the world can inspire more people's imagination.
4. Do you think designing in Europe is different from designing in Taiwan?
In fact, Taiwan is far more resource-rich in making clothing than in Europe. In particular, the biggest difference compared with Germany is actually the different thinking-provoking stimulus brought about by "people."
Berlin brings me the shock of design like an exploding bomb. I remember when my teacher looked at my sketching and constantly asked me what the concept was, what design process was, details, the idea of this line, and why this profile in particular? These questions made me frustrated and I suddenly felt that perhaps I don’t understand the design, and I realised that my past design method used only my own aesthetic intuition, but design should be based on lots of research.
In Berlin, I made a costume work based on Buddhist culture and Buddhist tea ceremony. In addition to doing a lot of research on the history of garments and religious philosophy, I also contacted Persian Buddhist Hill in Berlin for advice on the design significance of every detail of Buddhist costumes. They are dressed in walking posture, fabric weight, and the relationship between life, and finally each experience, philosophy, culture and spirit into a minimalist clothing. Minimalism to the average person should be hard to imagine because the process behind this design is rather complicated.
Through such different education and training, exchanges and discussions with people of different cultural backgrounds also realise that the transformation of a piece of clothing through the design concept can convey a lot of knowledge and energy.
5. Do you want to launch your own label right now?
I hope to launch my own clothing brand in the coming year. In fact, this idea has been in my mind for a long time. I always felt I was not good enough. I hoped to accumulate more work experience and hoped to increase more professional knowledge. Both of these goals have been tried hard, I found that good and bad are just relativity, and learning is endless.
Now I think I am ready, not because I feel aware, but I think I have the ability to think independently and distinguish right from wrong. I have the confidence to be strong in the face of the voices of questioning. I have a lot to say about this world, I hope to send more messages and stories to everyone through clothes, and I am also working hard to find my like-minded partners.
6. As a new generation of designers, what do you think about the future of the fashion industry?
This is a market-oriented era, sales number decided to design, rather than designers lead fashion. Fashion is like an explosion of information filling our lives, condensed into a post, or turned into a large number of productions. How many people care about the design concept behind a sewing line?
There are thousands of talented designers in the world who make countless clothes that not only cause environmental damage but also torment the mind and designers. I can not help but ask myself what is the designer's role? Why produce excess clothes?
I think as a new generation of designers we have to ask ourselves this question repeatedly and return to the pure love of creativity and art while understanding what we have produced for this world and be responsible for our own designs.
I think sustainable fashion will be our future. We love fashion from a completely different perspective. This is an impact on the entire industrial chain. It is a poison for vested interests. However, I expect it to become an antidote to the fashion industry.
Through her different experiences in Berlin, Wen Ting Chen made herself become a leader among the new generation. When the fashion industry was constantly challenged by modern technology, Wen Ting came forward to defend her ideals and fought for her passion. Based on her unique aesthetic and her passionate personality, Wen Ting, has shone brightly in the face of her generation as an emerging designer.
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