COINING CHEN PENG: THE DEVIANT DEFIANCE OF FASHION, VISION AND DESIGN
China’s youngsters will often go abroad to study, allowing them to gain new experiences and see first-hand what is happening in the wider world, something that is not afforded to them while in China. Crucially, most will return soon after studying to give back what they have experienced, generating a true Chinese identity to proliferate within the Chinese fashion world. Chen Peng is one such designer.
here is currently a dynamic fashion scene developing throughout China, with a particular focus in both Beijing and Shanghai. The increasingly strong influence of a new thinking among China’s younger generations regarding individuality and personal expression has allowed the fashion scene in the Middle Kingdom to really explode.
Chen Peng (陈鹏 in Chinese) is one such artiste suprême. Chen graduated from the London College of Fashion; he majored in MA Menswear Fashion Design Technology and in 2015 created his eponymous brand in London. His label in 2018 was one of four Chinese labels chosen to show at New York Fashion Week China Day as part of a collaboration between Alibaba’s Tmall and the CFDA. The larger part of that show day in terms of creativity did raise a Temper question mark or two, but Chen’s work without a doubt stood out. He saved the China Day.
Founder of Contemporary China Art platform CNCreate Misha Maruma goes on the prowl for Temper Magazine and gets the low-down on the man whose design aesthetics draw no lines between beauty and ugliness. The raison d’être is a matter of personal style.
The Boundaries That Fade Between
In just three years, Chen built a brand that sells products in 13 countries and more than 70 famous boutique shops worldwide; tens of thousands of fans follow him and support his brand. However, this is just the starting point: “I will also lead the team to create more products and live up to everyone’s expectations,” Chen tells me.
Recently, I spoke to Chen to get the low-down on his brand, his thoughts on the Chinese fashion scene, and how his label came to be described as anti-tradition and deviant.
In Chen’s design aesthetics there is no boundary between beauty and ugliness; his raison d’être is to highlight personal style.
It was while studying in London that Chen first coined his “one-sized” fashion. In typical Chinese forthrightness speaking bluntly about body image, he tells me about a “fat friend who was more obese.” This friend always had a problem when buying clothes. “He rarely found products that were both fashionable and fitted,” Chen explains. “I am thinner, so my university research focused on the design of my own brand products through the study of fat and lean bodies.”
Is this why he makes adjustable clothing? “I want to bring the public a new way of aesthetics and break the current definition of ‘size’,” he says forcefully. This is interesting because in China the market is skewed towards smaller sizes, giving his brand a much wider global appeal.
Distinctive Silhouettes And Shapes
The Chen Peng brand style is very distinctive, using a large silhouette to adapt to tall and thin body shapes. The silhouettes are a move away from his previous cocoon shapes, indicative of progression from Chen in his design output. His use of bright colors like pink, orange, green, and his experimentation with fabrics are used to indicate different personalities; his use of navy and black create conflicting emotional dimensions. This can be seen to form the designer’s world-view — from clarity to chaos, depression to wisdom.
When Chen burst onto the scene in 2015, it was his quilted puffer coats that stood out. Where did the idea of super-sized puffers come from? “I don’t think fashion should be limited by size,” he says, managing to get to the essence of what I’m asking without directly answering my question.
“I hope there is a product that can break this normality,” he tells me.
Shanghai Fashion Week has become a bright spot in the world of fashion weeks, certainly for all major Chinese celebrities and influencers, but also for other global icons. How does it compare to London, for example? “China’s market is huge and full of potential,” says Chen before pausing.
“We have transformed from the former world factory to the exporter of Chinese culture and art, becoming an indispensable part of the global fashion week, and attracting more and more brands to Shanghai,” he explains with obvious pride in his voice.
Advanced Technology And Accomplishment
And what of the Chinese fashion scene in general? “China’s fashion elements are inseparable from the inheritance of China for thousands of years,” Chen says, answering my question thoughtfully, knowing that he is one of the global faces of Chinese fashion design. “In this era, we have learned advanced technology, fully combined with our own traditions, and constantly show the world the amazing power of Chinese design and Chinese manufacturing.”
“Every celebrity wearing our clothes makes me happy and have a sense of accomplishment,” he says with genuine joy. “I hope that in future Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, more celebrities and ordinary people will fall in love with our brand.”
Finally, I ask how Chen feels about his brand being described as anti-tradition and deviant? “I think that tradition is based on the rules of a period of time, and it will change according to different times.”
With this, I know that Chen one of the future stars of global fashion, his understanding of both Chinese tradition and a millennial psyche something that will keep him relevant for some time to come.
“As a designer, I hope that through my current background, product research, and design I will continue to bring new possibilities and choices to the public.” Chen Peng