Shao-yen Chen

By Roshannah Bagley

LONDON, United Kingdom:: After the tragic passing of fashion genius Lee ‘Alexander’ McQueen in February, London Fashion Week was as expected an emotional and poignant occasion. The institution that is Central St Martins – responsible for shaping McQueen’s remarkable talent and home to the world’s most promising innovators – presented their annual MA graduate fashion show at Somerset House. Whilst McQueen spoke of his love for St Martins: “What I liked was I was surrounded by like-minded people. Central St Martins showed me there were people out there – like me”, a new crop of 22 rookies made their international debut.

The desirable Harrods award (previous recipients Christopher Kane and David Koma) was shared between Jackie Lee and Lilly Heine. Lee, who prior to the course was a pattern cutter for eight years, featured a collection with a ‘mannish’ undertone with effortless tailoring. Textiles specialist Heine presented a range of minimalist garments with laser cut layered shapes formed to move with the body. The L’Oreal Professionnel prize was awarded to Rok Hwang for his collection of strapless maxi dresses emblazoned with huge star motifs.

Lilly Heine and knitwear extraordinaire Shao-yen Chen (who displayed an extraordinary collection of knitted fringed dresses) speak to FAULT about their plans for the future.

FAULT:: As part of the St Martins MA show, you presented an all white range of dresses. What was the inspiration behind this range?

Shao-yen:: This collection is inspired by sea and waves, so I worked on different layers and textures. I also looked at 1970s fur coats and African tribal costumes for the silhouettes of the garments.

FAULT:: How were these pieces made?

Shao-yen:: I knitted together nylon, cashmere and lycra yarns on domestic knit machines. Although the garments were machine-made, I need to put every nylon fibre on each needle by hand in order to create volume, so it is quite time-consuming and requires a lot of handywork.

FAULT:: How has your previous experience at Alexander McQueen, Claire Tough and Hussein Chalayan influenced your design aesthetic?

Shao-yen:: Both McQueen and Chalayan pay much attention to the presentation of their work. Their shows are closer to performance than the usual fashion catwalk. I also hope to present shows like theirs in the future, when I have the ability. Claire Tough has influenced me on my knitwear techniques.

FAULT:: What are you up to now you have graduated?

Shao-yen:: I am going to take a break and then sort out the sponsorship for starting my own label.

FAULT:: What are your hopes for the next five years?

Shao-yen:: I hope to establish my own label and have the opportunities to collaborate with artists and designers I admire.

FAULT:: What is your FAULT?

Shao-yen:: I chose to study this course, now I am completely exhausted.