Chinese Breakout Star on Netflix's Next in Fashion | Luxe.Co Exclusive Interview with Angel Chen

April 5,2020

As the only designer from China, Angel Chan was selected in April last year to participate in the American fashion design reality show Next In Fashion, where she competed with 18 talented designers from all over the world.

In such a fierce competition, Angel Chan was among the top three in many categories arranged by theme, including the first place in the printing, street, and military themes. As a result, she successfully broke into Next In Fashion’s top four.

Previously, Chinese people rarely saw the familiar faces of their compatriots on such a well-known American reality show. As the only designer from China, competing with 18 other excellent designers from around the world was not an easy task for Angel. So what went on behind-the-scenes? What attitude do the famous judges have towards Chinese design?

Luxe.Co had an in-depth exchange with Angel Chen:


How Do Judges and Overseas Designers View Chinese Design and Its Fashion Market?

Luxe.Co: Why did you decide to participate in an overseas reality show?

Angel Chen: When I watched "Project Runway" many years ago, I found that although the American market is supportive of American Born Chinese designers in the United States, the acceptance of Chinese designers outside the United States is relatively low. It was hard to find the faces of Chinese designers on the show, or they were quickly weeded out even if there were some. "Next in Fashion", on the other hand, can allow designers from different countries to compete fairly, which is a good opportunity for Chinese designers.

After arriving in the United States, I found that they really have a lot of stereotypes about China. For example, they think that China is backward in technology and the production of things is crude. China has always been regarded as a big producer, but many people have ignored the fact that China also has good designs. I hoped to impress them through my works and my ideas and change their stereotypes. Promoting Chinese design and supporting Chinese design is what I have been doing and this is the real reason why I participated in Next in Fashion. So, I was very happy to have such a platform and an opportunity to show Chinese design.

Luxe.Co:  What preparations did you make before the competition?

Angel Chen: I brought enough clothes for about thirty sets. My appearance for each show was also carefully matched.

Luxe.Co: Every designer is talented: Some of them are from famous fashion schools and have their own brands; Some have worked as designers for well-known brands such as Stella McCartney and Alexander Wang; Some make concert costumes for singers like Beyonce and Taylor Swift. Can you describe the atmosphere of the competition ?

Angel Chen: The atmosphere of the competition was very tense, but the feeling among the participating designers was particularly good and very loving. They were very open to Chinese design, and many new concepts could be quickly understood.

Luxe.Co: What have you learned from other designers? Did you also find your shortcomings?

Angel Chen: Actually, before the official competition, we had a mock test that required us to make a suit within an hour and a half. I immediately offered a lot of ideas, but the execution frequently went wrong. MinJu (a Korean designer, and Angel’s partner) is very orderly and efficient in implementing ideas. In the cooperation stage, she was mainly responsible for pattern making and complex processes. During this process, I also constantly practiced my sewing and pattern-making skills, which allowed me to efficiently complete the garment making independently in the following competitions.

Luxe.Co: What are the attitudes of other designers towards the Chinese market? Do they want to enter the Chinese market?

Angel Chen: MinJu and I are good friends. In the past, her business was mainly in South Korea. During the competition, I persuaded her to open on Weibo in China. My best friend will also help MinJu expand in the Chinese market. After that, everyone will see her clothes sold in the Chinese market. Everyone can look forward to it.

Luxe.Co: The show invited several heavyweight guests as judges, such as British designer Christopher Kane, American designer Tommy Hilfiger, Prabal Gurung, Victoria's Secret Angel Adriana Lima and so on. Which one of the judges impressed you?

Angel Chen: I was impressed by the evaluation and encouragement given by many judges, but one particularly surprised me. During the printing theme competition, after listening  to the inspiration, story and home culture behind our works, judge Prabal Gurung gave MinJu and me great recognition and encouragement. In fact, on the day before that competition, when we were preparing, we lost confidence and felt that the work was not completed well enough. However, on the next day, the fact that we were able to get such a positive evaluation surprised and encouraged us.

Besides, during the cowboy theme competition, the judge Tommy Hilfiger came to me after watching my series and told me that he thinks that Chinese designers are very promising and will be an emerging force on the international fashion stage. At the same time, he also told me to always believe in my first instinct. The works created by the first instinct are invariably the best. His words gave me great encouragement.

What Substantial Help Does the Competition Bring to Your Brand?

Luxe.Co: How did your usual work experiences help you cope with this competition?

Angel Chen: To me, this competition was like returning to my student days and designing clothes for the final exam in school, which has consolidated my theoretical knowledge and practical ability. In my usual work, the accumulation of creativity and related professional knowledge helped me a lot. Because the use of mobile phones and computers to check information was not allowed in the show, I needed to come up with a quick plan for all creative ideas, fabric selection, boarding and ready-to-wear clothes. This required rich experience and solid basic skills.

Luxe.Co: What were the biggest difficulties encountered in the show? How were they  solved?

Angel Chen: This competition was very intense, and the time was very tight. On the surface, each competition lasts two days, but it doesn’t . If the situation is good, there will be seven  hours of preparation time on the first day. On the first night, the basic work must be completed. The program team will arrange a sewing worker to help you sew some linings on the clothes in the evening, and only two to three hours to complete the finishing work the next morning. The preparation process adds up to only 8-12 hours.

When recording the theme of military uniforms, my physical condition was already very bad, because I had been recording for six consecutive days, and I could see that my entire eyes were red. After recording the night of the cowboy theme, I lay in bed and suddenly started to have cramps, but MinJu thankfully massaged my muscles.

Luxe.Co: What are your regrets and gains after the entire show?

Angel Chen: It was a little regrettable to stop in the semifinals, but I don’t regret it that much. I hadn't expected that I could go so far. So, I felt very proud. Also, I believe that anyone who has watched the show will remember that a designer has been working hard for Chinese design. In this way, I have achieved my purpose. .

"Next In Fashion" is a journey to challenge yourself. When the military uniform series was finished, I was very satisfied that I could complete such craftsmanship and style in a short time and I also made cotton quilts inside. I felt great about myself. .

Luxe.Co: Did this competition help you better complete your own brand design?

Angel Chen: Of course. After I perfected and developed the works designed in the denim theme competition, I added the splash ink denim to my 2020 spring and summer series.

Luxe.Co: What help has it brought to you after the show was broadcast? Have you considered overseas expansion plans?

Angel Chen: The main help has been to increase the popularity of ANGEL CHEN in   domestic and overseas markets, promote the brand ANGEL CHEN, and have a better impression of ANGEL CHEN's design style.

Of course, there are overseas expansion plans. Because after this program was broadcast, there was a great response in overseas regions, especially in the United States. We are also planning to expand the US public relations business next, hoping to take this opportunity to open in the US market through online and offline activities to further promote the brand ANGEL CHEN to overseas friends..

Also, because of the epidemic situation, we first tried to launch our brand online, and our 2020 autumn and winter series will also be shared with friends around the world on March 30.

| Photo Credit: Angel Chen

| Editor: Elisa


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