After mastering the art of tailoring in Taiwan, menswear designer Chia Hung Su schooled himself in the natural dyeing techniques of Wu Su Chen. When graduating from London College of Fashion earlier this year, his main focus was on craftsmanship and bringing the complex and inspiring history of Taiwan to life. Chia says, “Nothing is permanent, except history and memory”, and it might have been for this reason, that Chia Hung Su’s sustainable designs have been featured in the September print issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK. We explored the beauty of natural dyes and the importance of history, read to be transported to the world of vintage fabrics.
Your collection strongly revolves around the culture and history, what inspired you to work within these fundaments?
I can mainly ascribe this to my own background and Taiwanese history. Taiwan has been colonised by Japan, China and even some Western countries. We don’t really have a typical culture, that can be easily distinguished or recognised. The first time a true cultural development took place was under Japanese rule from 1880-1945, we started combining and merging Taiwanese aboriginal culture with traditional Japanese culture, which helped find our own identity. The main message I want to express with my garments is this new Asian culture, of a small country yet with a very rich history.
"The first time a true cultural development took place was under Japanese rule from 1880-1945, we started combining and merging Taiwanese aboriginal culture with traditional Japanese culture, which helped find our own identity"
You applied a more organic and sustainable approach, for instance by using natural dying methods, how did this impact your design process?
It definitely takes up more of your time, as it requires significantly more experimentation. The weather is different each season, and no year bears the same weather conditions, this all influences the colour of the expression. Even the origin of the fabric or dye can affect the same material differently. Additionally, you need to ensure that the supply can be maintained, each material has very limited use, the time you take to prepare it to then actually start crafting the garment could be weeks apart, which is radically different from buying store-bought fabric.
Do you have a favourite piece that has the bears a more significant value to you?
Every piece is one of the kind, as I source and use fabrics from the 40s up until the 70s. If I would have to pick one, it would be the shirt, adorned with hand-embroidered flower patches. The fabric itself dates all the way back to the 1880s, the Meiji Period, in Nara Japan. This is one of the older fabrics I’ve managed to source so far. After I obtained it, I manipulated the fabric with natural dye, transforming it into a light grey and adding more texture to the textile.
"Every piece is one of the kind, as I source and use fabrics from the 40s up until the 70s"
Your collection relies on a more muted colour palette while focusing on detailing, what colours and texture inspired you the most?
There’s no particular colour that inspires me more than others. I believe, as long as the colour has been obtained through natural dyeing processes, making it the ultimate natural colour, that is a colour I aspire to obtain.
Do you believe history and culture will be a part of your future collections? Is it innate to the brand?
Yes, I do. It will continue to play a very important part in my collection, as it is my main concept, the thread if you will, that links it all together. Throughout the further collection, I do however wish to explore different parts and stories of East Asian processes and history and express a slightly more different spirit every season.
"I do however wish to explore different parts and stories of East Asian processes and history and express a slightly more different spirit every season."
See Chia Hung Su's collection
Words by Lupe Baeyens