Chloe Chen Insider Interview
A Taiwanese fashion designer, wife, and mother of two, Chloe Chen, has approximately 20 stores across Asia and will seeking her first international expansion very soon.
Around morning coffee at her concept store in Ferguson Lane, Chloe Chen shares with us her passion as an emerging fashion designer, how it all started right after college and the current opportunities and challenges she’s facing in Asia’s blooming market for the RTW category.
- Why did you want to be a fashion designer?
I started approximately 16 years ago, after I graduated from college in advertising. I didn’t go to work after that. When I was in college I really liked vintage and would often catch myself redesigning my mom and grandma’s clothes and would receive positive feedback where I knew that I wanted to do something with vintage. My parents supported me with this project and I started travelling to Japan and Hong Kong to buy vintage clothing and reconstruct them back home where I then eventually opened my first boutique.
- How do you balance the consistency in your designs while always creating newness for your customers?
For me it’s not very hard as I’m doing what I like and what is very me, so it comes from my heart. Vintage and modern mix n match is the brands DNA. Also mixing the east with the west is very important as I always travel from NYC to Taiwan and Asia.
Also, something sexy with a feminine feeling combined with a rocker look or taking manly fabrics and creating lady like looks out of them is also the core of the brand.
3. What are your plans to tackle the international market?
Along with our e-commerce site, we have an agent in the US who helps us sell through multi-brand boutiques, however we also have our Operations Director who is moving to the US in order to see how we can further expand in that market. We are hopefully planning to open a store in New York, soon. I’ll be going there next week to explore further as it’s really my dream to open a store there.
- Inspiration for SS and FW Collection?
For SS collection it’s revolving around the vacation mood and my recent travelling experience in Greece. I wanted to design a collection under the theme of “ 30 days in Greece” where most looks that I created are looks I would wear during the trip. I focused on an all white look; white dresses, trousers, shirts etc. For most people, white gives the impression that it’s very hard to wear and easy to look unflattering, but we focused on good cutting in order to give a good shape.
For the FW16/17, I collaborated with Chenwei who is one of my favourite artists. I’ve been collecting his art for many years now and met him at Art Basel this year where he’s known for using photography to express a strong statement in his art.
My inspiration for this FW, is for women to have a strong personality and attitude and not always abide to taking care of family, cooking, cleaning and forgetting about yourself, you should not always follow the rules, but be independent and live your own life.
I presented this concept to Chen Wei who was very interested. He usually rejects collaborations with fashion brands but this time he accepted where we initiated a crossover through designing statement shirts such as “I’m Trouble” as well as creating diverse statements through LED light pieces, where we combined his statements with mine. For this project, we will donate all the money to children who don’t have the chance to experience art through sending them art books.
When I started talking with Chenwei about commission and sales he didn’t really care, he wanted to create something more meaningful where he himself brought this idea up. I respect artists who have strong beliefs, where beliefs become art pieces, and not creating art pieces because they will sell.
- Is China’s economic slow down impacting your growth?
We’ve been in China for 10 years and as of last year I’ve been starting to feel that this is really our time now. We broke our sales record for many months now and it simply keeps rising. I think our customer appreciates the value of unique designs and taste for a design piece rather than a name brand, I also think that people are seeking to have their “own look”, something with more character which can reflect their own personality. Fast fashion is another way to express your attitude while first tier luxury brands are another; I think we are a bit more niche in this respect.
We always had a much stronger performance in Taiwan rather than in China , but as of last year China’s performance surpassed Taiwans. Where Chengdu and Zhoushan is the strongest.
- What are your top 3 challenges and opportunities you believe Chloe Chen has?
For a designer, the biggest challenge is operations and management. As designers we are very emotional. For some people who are strong on operations and management, they are more practical and logical, which can sometimes create clashes.
For retail, the market is changing extremely fast, for example, two years ago, franchise was a good way to do business, but now the franchise market is on a strong decline as rent is too high. A fast reaction to these changes is important, being flexible and quickly adapting to change.
For e-commerce, it also changes very fast, we now have a professional person on board for this. Accessories such as sunglasses are forecasted to have a stronger sell through for us online due to the nature of the product combined with technology.
Technology is ever changing but people appreciate unique designs and quality value products. This is our strength, even if some fast fashion brands are creating good pieces but not original design, people are now willing to pay more to buy original designs.
- For your brand what is the difference between you e-commerce platform and physical POS
For our e-commerce, it currently acts as an extension from our POS. People who come to China or Taiwan see our stores and buy our designs, but when they go back to their home countries they no longer have physical access to the brand where e-commerce becomes important. Many of our customers come from HK, Australia, London, and they start going online to buy the products thereafter.
- What is your key tip of the day for young emerging designers who want to grow like you?
If your doing what you love, don’t give up. Everything you want is almost there.
This article has been created for CITY WEEKEND
Photos by Alex De Large ( Balans Kaunas)