As part of our collaboration with Fashion Scout, we are proud to present interviews with Fashion Scout’s Ones to Watch and Merit Award winners for the AW17 season. Today in our series of interviews we chat to Ru Chen, one of Fashion Scout’s ‘Ones to Watch’ winners, whose AW17 collection will be shown at London Fashion Week at 3.30pm on Friday 17th February as part of the Fashion Scout schedule.
Meet Ru Chen, the 27 year old designer from China who has recently launched her namesake label after graduating from the Central Saint Martins MA Futures program in 2015. Ru’s debut Spring Summer collection garnered incredible reviews with her use of deconstructed garments to create mesmerising statements in contemporary fashion design. In her work, Ru builds on her myriad of skills learnt over seven years of specialist study, first at the Bunka Fashion College in Shanghai and Tokyo where she finessed her technical skills and then at Central Saint Martins in London where she explored womenswear alongside experimenting with film, photography and performance. Now as she sits in her Shanghai studio with her cat, Lilac (named after the colour of his eyes), Ru chats to us about launching her namesake brand, her collections to date and winning the Fashion Scout ‘Ones to Watch’ award.
The Fashion Conversation: After graduating from CSM, you moved back to Shanghai in October 2015 and initially worked for six months as a tutor, before launching your own brand. What inspired you to launch Ru?
Ru Chen: When I first got back to China, I wasn’t sure whether I should start my own label – you need a lot of commitment and it’s quite a hard journey. So initially I decided to do a full time job tutoring, but that didn’t last long – I got bored. Then two seasons ago I helped my friend Fen Gu Yi Tan do a presentation at Shanghai Fashion Week. Being in the fashion environment, helping Fen Gu Yi Tan with her shows and doing production, led me to suddenly think I should be launching my own brand too.
TFC: And what has the journey of launching Ru being like so far? You’ve mentioned Shanghai is a great place to start a brand, what’s the appeal of being based there?
RC: The Shanghai fashion industry is very young and a lot of quite young designers are based here, so there is this passion about the industry. I can feel the energy and the freshness. China has great production resources and a growing market that is supportive of emerging designers.
TFC: Your first collection for Ru showed at Shanghai Fashion Week, and was your winning entry to Fashion Scout. What was the inspiration behind the Spring Summer 17 collection?
RC: The inspiration was based on my feelings when I returned to China after my time in London and architecture. I was always passing messy constructive sites and I wasn’t happy about my tutoring job so I was continually on the look out for inspiration for a collection. I was looking at the exposure of buildings as I always consider clothing a smaller architecture form around a woman’s body. The shapes were inspired by how building brick breaks down and also my cousin’s wardrobe. She has a lot of old coats which are chained at the back where the label is located – this chain detail really caught my attention. One day I cut the fabric of one of the old coats in the middle, just between the chain, suddenly the whole garment just broke down, but it didn’t come off because of the chain which connected the two pieces together. I was like, “Oh, that’s something interesting.” Cutting the coat gave volume at the bottom, and as a result the whole garment became bigger, more voluminous and silhouette softer. The textiles I used to create the garments were inspired by the dust that is everywhere when architecture breaks down.
TFC: You’re busy working on an Autumn Winter ‘17 collection to be shown at London Fashion Week as part of the Fashion Scout schedule, can you share some details of your upcoming collection? Is it a continuation of your Spring Summer collection?
RC: My autumn winter collection sort of flows on from my spring summer collection, because I am still looking at the dust and the buildings, but my autumn winter collection is more about attitudes, specifically, a rebellion attitude. The spring summer collection was more about the process, with my interns doing a lot of embroidery by hand. For autumn winter, I want to try something machine made. For example, embroidery with more abstract like patterns, not just the fluffy yarns coming out of the clothes. This collection is more about the patterns, how it’s going to look like when the pieces are worn and comfort.
TFC: What does winning the Fashion Scout ‘Ones to Watch’ award mean to you? What are you looking forward to at London Fashion Week?
RC: I’m really excited for London Fashion Week as it will be my first time doing a catwalk show! And I think because I wasn’t from a major fashion course, a lot of people don’t know me yet as a fashion designer, so I think this opportunity will be a very good starting point for people to know me as a fashion designer rather than a performance artist.
TFC: What are your plans for the future of Ru?
RC: For my next collection I want to explore more accessories, the bigger accessory piece and obviously, with the garments. I think the fashion industry is changing at the moment, and I think in the future this kind of trend thing will pass. So I am trying to create my own image and style that won’t change over time. I also don’t want people just see me as a fashion designer, I want to do more with fashion as art – experimentation videos, short films – a continuation of my work from CSM.