yu ching shen

unconsummated affection

Earlier this year, The Fashion Conversation went to the MA Kingston Fashion Show at the Vinyl Factory, London. Yu-Ching Shen’s collection ‘Unconsummated Affection’ instantly caught our eye. Yu-Ching’s installation was beautiful, evocative and full of desire with a dark twist. We catch up with Yu-Ching, the 24 year old textile and print designer from Taiwan to learn more about her design practice, inspirations and plans for the future. Oh and did we mention – we are very grateful to her brother for introducing her to Alexander McQueen and the Spring/Summer collection in 2007 – the defining moment which Yu-Ching credits as setting her path to become a designer.

The Fashion Conversation: You’ve studied design in both Taiwan and London, how different were your experiences? What is the most important thing you’ve learnt during your MA at Kingston University?

Yu-Ching Shen: My MA course was very different to the bachelor course in Taiwan – a lot of design research was needed to back up my design thinking. It wasn’t just converting inspirational pictures into designs, I also needed to translate text documents into imagery throughout the thinking process. Our tutors at Kingston, Andrew and Neil, always encouraged us to create various outcomes instead of just designing a collection. I think the most important thing I learnt during my MA is my identity as a woven textile and print designer.

TFC: What inspired your graduate collection ‘Unconsummated Affection’? How did your interest in weave and knit come about?

YCH: I have been working on textiles ever since I started the course and then I saw Louise Merten’s photography. Her amazing photos give me the feeling that they’re trying to communicate their emotions through textures and that was the initial idea of my project ‘texturise emotions’. I don’t have a knitting background so I chose to weave my fabrics alternatively. The knitting part in some of the garments are made by two amazing knitters Debbie Chessell, a BA fine art student in Kingston Uni and Fiona Whitehead, knitting tutor in Kingston Uni.

TFC: ‘Unconsummated Affection’ explores the emotion love, and your installation at the MA Kingston show was charged with emotion. Can you please tell us a bit more about your design process?

YCH: It always starts with a unique idea and I can’t force it. For this project, the idea just hit me. I read a lot and look for imagery in relation to my idea to make my concept more clear. I read about how colours and textures affect human feelings. Different textures and colours trigger different memories for people because of an individual’s experience.

And then a thought came through my mind, ‘that is how textures influence human feelings but can emotions be communicated through textures and colours’. That was how I got my initial concept and started this project. Originally I chose to translate eight emotions. However, since they were all very different, I narrowed it down to one emotion and I set an eight collections plan. Love is the first emotion to be communicated in this plan. At first people would think that love is pinkish, comfortable and soft but there is actually another side of this feeling that is dark, twisted and broken. That is why there are darker colours and incomplete textures in my textiles.

TFC: Before you started your MA you interned with Jason Wu in New York City which must have been the most incredible experience. Can you please tell us about it? What did you learn?

YCH: During my internship at Jason Wu in New York City, I was in the atelier studio helping the head pattern cutter. My supervisor was a very strict person and he always asked for perfection. For example, there were at least ten different fabric fuses and one of my jobs was to remember all of them and used the right one for different kinds of fabric. I also made lots of fabric swatches and duplicating patterns for final production. I learnt a lot of professional skills during the internship.

TFC: Who is your favourite designer at the moment and why?

YCH: I would say Stella McCartney. I find myself strange because I love detailed works but I’m also fascinated by simplicity. Silhouette of her collection is not very complex but there are many details in pattern cutting, prints and fabric. I also like the brand’s sustainability values. I think it’s very important for a designer to be eco-friendly and respect every part of production process. My friend and I always talk about how meaningless fast fashion can be. We can’t deny its success or remove it from the industry but we can do something to make fashion less shallow and more educational.

TFC: What are you goals for the future? What are some of your upcoming projects?

YCH: I’m looking for a job as a textile designer in London and I’ll keep working on my ‘texturising emotion’ project in the same time. Eventually, I want to start my own brand but not anytime soon.

TFC: What is one thing people who know you would be surprised to learn about you? YCH: I think my latest collection is something that surprised even myself. Before my collection, I HATED PINK. There was no pink in my life. NONE. I still don’t like pink but sometimes you just have to love something you don’t like to create good work!

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