H&M is no stranger to designer collaborations. In the past, the fast fashion label has worked with big names like Karl Lagerfeld, Roberto Cavalli, Stella McCartney, Kenzo and Balmain.
This year, however, H&M chose to partner with Angel Chen. She is the first designer from China to have the opportunity, and the collection caused quite a buzz when it was released last month.
So, who is she? Chen is known for her “East meets West” design ethos. The pieces she came up with for H&M embodied this. Vibrant colours were a big focus, along with oriental-themed embellishments.
“I think one of the reasons why H&M approached me is because of the way I approach Chinese culture and elements in a modern and colourful way,” she said in an email interview.
Chen explained that her main inspiration for the collection is Chinese martial arts, otherwise termed as “kung fu”. She said she used elements such as pine trees, bamboo, cranes and dragons to convey this spirit.
“I wanted to create an urban wardrobe with a touch of Chinese elements. So in this collection you will find sweaters, bomber jackets and headbands with traditional Chinese motifs and embroidery.”
The campaign faces for the Angel Chen x H&M collection are excited about the collaboration too. When contacted, model Liu Wen and singer-songwriter Lay Zhang said that they are happy to see Chinese culture being a focus.
“I am happy to see a fashion collaboration between the East and West and I really look forward to creating more awareness about fashion and design inspired by Chinese cultural elements,” said Liu Wen.
Lay Zhang added: “This is a really beautiful collection that encompasses a lot of Chinese aesthetics and I love the embroidery detail. It is a great avenue to showcase traditional Chinese culture and it’s a collection not to be missed.”
A graduate of Central Saint Martins, Chen moved from her home city of Shenzhen to study in London at the age of 17. During her placement year, she interned for Marchesa, Vera Wang and Alexander Wang in New York.
She is said to be among the new wave of Chinese designers that are making it big internationally. While currently based in Shanghai, her own label is stocked by major retailers around the world.
Chen’s strength lies in her unwavering love for her heritage. She has always championed her culture and is not ashamed to put her own spin on what is seen as traditional.
“I think the beauty is in how I incorporate these traditional elements with modern silhouettes and bring out different aspects of these traditional details,” she said, when asked about balancing old and new.
Chen does keep abreast of trends. She turns to social media for this, as well as buries herself in books to better understand what is current in the fashion world at large.
Content to continue designing clothes her own way, she stated: “Traditional Chinese aesthetics have always been the basis of all my collections.”