paris fashion week: shiatzy chen

(images via wwd)

so there’s some good, and some bad news at the moment. we’ll start with the good first, as it kind of bleeds into the bad, and that’s the fact that, with our commencing a discussion on designer wang chen tsai-hsia’s a/w 2013 presentation for tawainese atelier shiatzy chen, we’re finally completing our coverage of those lesser well-known labels at paris fashion week, and with it all, quite near the end of pfw in general, but as i’m sure you’re aware, the former also means there’s not much in the way of information circulating out there.

so yes, sigh. anyway, when checking into the background, i had actually thought we’d talked about shiatzy chen more frequently than we actually had, having only looked at some images of a/w 2012 and truly discussed the s/s 2013 range, but no matter, i’ve found the clothes exceedingly lovely with each passing season, and love the label’s east-meets-west aesthetic, which also reminds me at times quite a bit of the work of new york-based designer vivienne tam (i was thinking in particular of her a/w 2011 range).

anyway, with so many of the labels well-known to us pushing into eastern expansion, hoping to tap those markets, i find their pushback kind of refreshing, particularly as i don’t think we benefit from everyone in the world dressing as a westerner. for example, i was absolutely charmed by yumi lambert’s mandarin collared cherry red jacket, with its fur piping and hemline, and beautifully delicate gold embroidery. and in a subtler display, nastya kuskina’s black collarless coat, with its slightly cropped sleeves (and featuring a tall mandarin collared white shirt reaching out from beneath it) was sleek and wearable, with just that little bit of requisite eastern flair.

honestly, i was less enthralled by that parade of simple, sort of abstractly-painted pieces (monochromatic with little swatches of rainbow-ed colour trailing across them), such as the jacket liu wen opened the show with, featuring a more subtle band collar, but i guess i can understand where some girls might go more for that, unafraid that maybe they’d be reaching too far into costume territory, as some of those pieces i was so enthralled by might suggest to the less resolute.

but i found that on the more successful east-meets-west end were those evening gowns that closed out the show, like samantha gradoville’s floor-sweeping one-shouldered goddess gown, some delicate little tucks cascading across the bodice almost in a manner that would suggest grecian…until one looked up to where the shoulder was held with a little chinese clasp (inspired by the tang dynasty, that is). and sui he’s sculptural black strapless number, with its complex sweeps of line, was also magnificent, if less culturally connected.

and so, on the critical front (although as i previously warned you, there isn’t much), we were lucky enough to get a couple of opinions, with wwd starting us off by stating that, much as i’ve also previously suggested, “Taiwanese designer Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia continued on her quest to build sartorial bridges between Asian and Western styles.”

“This season,” they prattled on, “that translated into coats and dresses in arty colorations hand-sketched to the fabrics, for which the designer took cues from the tricolor pottery of the Tang Dynasty. The burnt orange looked lovely on a roomy wool coat, loosely belted on the waist, while the elegant swagger of another in black satin evoked an empirical luxuriousness while utterly modern at the same time.”

and then, in a more fully fleshed-out analysis, we heard from now fashion that “Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia looked back to a period of lasting opulence in China, the Tang Dynasty, described as being akin to the Roman Empire. Such an analogy can be tricky, if one bears in mind the decadent excesses of the latter’s later centuries. Initially Wang’s collection impressed with its tailoring, mandarin collared mini-dresses, a smart looking duster all delivered in silk and delicately mottled with colorful splashes inspired by San Cai pottery.”

“A photomontage,” they carried on, “adorned a burnt orange mini-dress, preceded a bold jacket of the same color with knickerbockers. A caramel leather ensemble and its horn toggles felt fresh and relevant. But the later overabundance of superfluous details – a bow here, a cluster of ruffles on the back of an otherwise handsome dress, garish furs, inexplicable laces creeping on lapels – left the collection looking contrived, despite occasional reprieves.”

“The long evening dresses added nothing to the conversation either. When trying to evoke opulent wealth, sometimes more is more, but here it was just too much. Shiazty Chen failed to deliver on its promises of a seamless blend of East-West luxuries,” they concluded. okay, so they didn’t like it. but i did. and i’m looking forward to a time when the house gets more deserved attention, as i personally believe there’s a lot that’s quite exciting to be had here.

(watch the full fashion show video here)


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