"Introducing an emerging designer creating captivating leather fashions."
NEW TYPE #13: CHENG - CHENG HUAI CHUANG INTERVIEW
"Cheng-Huai Chuang was introduced to fashion at a young age"
His parents owned a boutique in his home city of Taipei, Taiwan where he had the opportunity to dress mannequins and design window displays. Before moving to New York after high school to study at Parsons, he received attention from a prominent theater company, Van Body Theater (formerly, Chibody Theater Troupe), where he was invited to design costumes, as well as design for a fashion show at the Nan-Hai Art Gallery, part of National Taipei University.
Cheng launched his collection in 2011. Since launching his line, Cheng has been featured in publications such as V Magazine, Elle Taiwan, Dazed & Confused, Nylon, and Essence among others. Cheng garnered celebrity interest and dressed the likes of Carrie Underwood, Lady Gaga, Amy Schumer, Zendaya, Kat Graham, Brandy, Kelly Osbourne, Sky Ferreira, and La La Anthony.
TWELV Magazine sat down with Cheng on a beautiful spring day to get to know the up and coming designer.
--- CHENG-HUAI CHUANG INTERVIEW ---
1. Tell me about yourself, where did you grow up? Growing up, was there something that appealed to you about fashion/design and/or construction that led you to clothing specifically?
When I was growing up my parents owned a boutique in Taipei, Taiwan so that was my first introduction to fashion, I would say. I spent a lot of time in their store, other kids played with video games or played basketball. I played around dressing mannequins and watched how people shopped and I think that influenced and inspired me a lot. I always liked to see when people would buy the things I put together, it was very rewarding.
2. What was your first job?
I came to New York 10 years ago to study Fashion Design at Parsons and my first job was during that time. I worked with Marc Rancy, a Filipino designer, who mostly focused on bridal, and subsequently launched his collection in 2010 during New York Fashion Week.
3. How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is simple, clean, casual, and I cannot live without skinny jeans.
4. Where have you lived and how has it influenced your understanding of fashion?
It has changed a little bit. Before I came here, I came here right after high school, where I read magazines a lot, but the style is so different. For example, for clothes, Asian girls don’t dress as sexy. They play around with more patterns, colors, and layers.
5. Tell me about your creative process. In other words, how do you begin to design an article of clothing? How do you settle on materials, colors, and textures?
My inspiration mostly comes from movies, music, and New York. It’s all about creating a character, creating a woman that people want to be. It’s maybe not for everyone. My clothes are for women who want to be individuals, to stand out, and be in the spotlight. I’m often inspired by movie characters, because that’s probably the first place women try and emulate their image from.
6. Can you describe the creation of a piece from its initial conception through to a final product?
My design process can start anytime, anywhere. I just start thinking about ideas, while walking around the city and seeing people, even on the subway. I can see the clothes a woman is wearing and how I would dress her. I’ll go home and start sketching, I put together an idea of what she would wear if she were a ‘Cheng woman.’ I start to think about how to make patterns and really start from there, then I pick fabrics and create the item. I think I’m pretty good with visualizing how something will actually turn out, which is helpful.
7. Are there certain materials you like working with and why?
This collection has a lot of sequins. I love working with leather, chiffon, organza, and feathers. I like the hard feelings mixed with softer materials to bring out different feelings in a woman. Every girl has a different side to her.
8. Do you look to any sources (museums, other design arts, etc.) for design inspiration?
I mostly walk around galleries with my friends, sometimes in Chelsea. Of course watching people at the MET Gala. Even The Museum of Natural History, you can be inspired by culture and different things. Depends on my mood, but I like walking and experiencing different things.
9. What do you think are the elements of "good" clothing design?
I would say clothing that makes you feel good about yourself, clothes that make you feel how you want to feel, that’s the most important element, that, and good fabric. You want to feel special and sexy, whoever you are.
10. What do you find to be the most rewarding, challenging, and frustrating aspects of what you do?
The challenging would be toning down crazy ideas, because they have to be wearable, not too costume-y, not too crazy, and not too over the top. When I finish a collection, when I show my lookbook, and then when showing it to the press - that’s the first time I see a woman wearing my entire collection, with everything the way I want it, the accessories and everything. Sometimes you have crazy ideas you want to do but you have to think about people actually having to wear them.
11. How would you describe your customer?
My clothes are for a woman who’s strong and knows what she wants. They want to live their lives and enjoy themselves. For sophisticated and a special kind of woman. They enjoy celebrating themselves.
12. What designers either in clothing or other arts do you most admire?
Of course McQueen and Gaultier. I love the detail more than the overall design. So it may be from an unexpected source. I think I’m more attracted to the detail than the design overall.
13. What is a "beautiful" piece of clothing to you? Is there such a thing as an "ugly" design? Is there a difference for you between men’s and women's clothing design?
If I’m designing the Cheng woman for men, still sexy, confident, the clothes are like a statement piece. The clothes that are “ugly” are ones that you don’t feel empowered wearing, that don’t make you feel good about yourself.
14. How do you spend your free time?
I enjoy walking around, people watching, and going to restaurants. I love Japanese, Italian, and Chinese food. I also enjoy spending time at home, on the weekend. Reading books, listening to music, and reading magazines.
15. What new projects are you working on?
Right now I’m doing the collection for 5/6 years, seeing how it goes, we’ll see after the show in September what’s next. I’m preparing to work on my men’s S/S 17 collection, I might do a show, finally! Right now clothes are what I’m feeling the most. But, if I were to branch out, I would also do shoes. I love New York, I will probably stay. Completely different elements in a small space, more personality, hot melting pot, always something going on. I love that you can walk a short distance and be in a totally different environment.
INTERVIEWED & WRITTEN BY ARDEN PICKOFF RAFFERTY
PRODUCER: AYAMI OKURA
PHOTOGRAPHY: CHIAKI KATO