The Chinese fashion designer Feng Chen Wang has been investigating her cultural heritage through clothing since graduating from the Royal College of Art in London in 2015. She studied menswear, so her unisex collections today are infused with multi-dimensional elements that lean toward androgyny. Each season, we see offerings of technical outerwear, futuristic cuts and layering, and deconstructed details. Functional pieces embody conceptual designs, and each draws on the designer’s personal life experiences.
The London-based designer is also the latest collaborator for Ugg’s “FEEL YOU” guest series, which welcomes individuality through collaboration for new shoes designed by artists, creatives, and activists around the world.
“Even though I had worked on footwear before, this is a new and radically different collaboration which I loved working on,” said Wang. “The clash of cultures, background, and origins of both brands is exactly what makes this partnership interesting and meaningful. We’re excited to see the combination of how our signature functionality and deconstructed design language can play with such an iconic footwear as UGG in a fresh new way.”
Whitewall spoke with the designer to learn more about her latest collaboration and why cultural storytelling is important in fashion.
WHITEWALL: You design for both men and women, drawing on personal life experiences to explore themes of an “other half,” home, and human connection. Can you give us a recent example of a design you created based on a personal experience?
FENG CHEN WANG: For my Fall/Winter 2020 collection, I was inspired by this idea of finding hope, especially in more challenging times. “Hope of Dawn,” the title of our collection, is a reflection of those times of hardship on many levels—from personal and political to professional. It’s important to never give up.
At the same time, the collection shows a glimpse into my Chinese heritage. The colors of the collection were a translation of the trips to the Fujian mountains, in my hometown where I could see a beautiful dawn.
I also focused on my name and the Chinese characters: 王逢陈; Wang Feng Chen, and incorporated them abstractly through layers of fabric across our range. This was a message to remind people of your own identity of who you are.
WW: How would you describe the aesthetic of your eponymous label?
FCW: Future-modern, authentic, and multidimensional is how I describe the Feng Chen Wang vision.
We focus on technical deconstruction, and to create unisex clothing that is functional, but at the same time, conceptual and personal that draws from my life experiences and Chinese heritage.
WW: Why was a deconstructed design style something you originally adopted? What drew you to it?
FCW: Deconstruction is what we use to communicate our design language. For me, it is really important to tell a story. I especially love looking at classics and being able to deconstruct them, giving them a new life, a new soul, a new modern twist, a new narrative.
WW: Why is cultural storytelling important to your fashion designing?
FCW: We live in a world where people connecting with each other is becoming more important, and we all have our own and different history, culture, and identity.
I was born and raised in China, which has its own interesting history and culture that hasn’t been shared much before, especially in the West. It’s important for me to bring these historical, cultural, or traditional stories to develop a new language or story based on my background that incorporates history, craftsmanship, and cultural traditions. We do this by designing to create a future-modern interpretation that people can feel, share and connect with.
WW: You recently collaborated with Ugg on a new style of shoe, featuring a unique double wear design. How did you approach this project?
FCW: For this collaboration, I wanted to design a pair of shoes that could break the definition of both seasons and gender. This was achieved by deconstructing the stereotype that boots are limited for winter. The unique double wear design conveys a true sense of the word “inclusive,” which means this pair of shoes can be worn in December at the same time by someone in Melbourne or in Beijing—it has this idea of exploring the conceptual meaning of globalization—winter boots that can be worn in summer, and summer sandals that can be worn in winter.
WW: You’ve worked on footwear before, but mentioned “this is a new and radically different collaboration.” How so?
FCW: This collaboration was an opportunity to clash and harmonize different backgrounds, cultures, and origins of both brands. It’s a footwear collaboration that aims to push the idea of footwear through the design concept. It was interesting to see how our signature design language could be translated into an iconic shoe, and being part of this project along with Telfar and Molly Goddard.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about your latest collection?
FCW: Our latest collection is a call for hope. Our Pre-Spring/Summer 2021 is about the passing of time to look at our past, present, and future. Where we come from, where we are right now, and where we are going.
The colors of the collection are muted to reflect this time of reflection.
Also, I have worked on a very exciting project with our Feng Chen Wang community to reflect the idea of human connection that has been a source of inspiration during my career since day one.
In this project, I wanted to explore and find the relationship between, individual and communal identity. How they are found, fostered, embraced, and expressed.