INNERSECT, East Asia's leading fashion, music, art, and tech fair, is opening the doors to its fifth edition in Shanghai later this January. Since launching in 2017, the event has quickly risen to prominence, growing within the street culture scene to become one of the most important fixtures on the global calendar today.
For the next edition, it’s taking things to a whole new level, tapping its first-ever co-curator, Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo, who has invited his close network of creatives to Shanghai to present a body of work that responds to the theme of “Balance.”And thanks to this, the hype for INNERSECT is tangible — that was made obvious through a recent conversation between Highsnobiety host, Tokyo veteran, and fashion editor Tiffany Godoy and Chinese fashion designer, Angel Chen.
“I love to visit Innersect,” Chen enthused, explaining that in the ten years she’s been in the fashion industry the fair was the first time she felt a significant energy shift. “I felt like, 'Oh my God, somehow it's even more interesting than Fashion Week.' Innersect interacts with the customer, people like me who love fashion, who love art, who love street culture, and, at the same time, want to shop. It’s democratic art for everyone to enjoy.”
Chen and her eponymous label ANGEL CHEN play a vital role in the new wave of young Chinese brands making a global impact. Specifically, she's celebrated for her genderless cuts and colorful style, and her core concept of fusing East and West. It’s that fusion that forms the basis of the conversation with Godoy, who linked up with the designer to discover more about her work, how she views the street culture scene in China, and what’s coming next. Watch their conversation below and discover more after the jump.
"Chinese economy [is] booming and really cool brands [are emerging]. This is a kind of spring for Chinese fashion designers. Everything starts to blossom.”
The arrival of said spring has had a huge impact on how designers in China are being spoken about by the media. “I remember the other day I was talking to Vogue. Vogue never used to review China fashion [but] this year, they started to review Shanghai fashion week. [The editor] said now she thinks Shanghai Fashion Week is the world’s most interesting fashion week because [it’s] so unique and different. You will see tons of different styles, cool street [style versus] very delicate, beautiful [designs]. There are lots of interesting [things] going on.”
Chen continued: “I grew up in a family in Southern China; we have lots of really traditional motifs decorated on our temples, everywhere. So, we wanted to take that inspiration to the global audience. What I love about Chinese culture is [that] there are so many traditional handcrafts — embroidery, the making of the lanterns, making of the wool, weaving. We want to show [these] techniques to the audience but [in a] more contemporary [way].”
In her opinion, the act of studying, absorbing, and transferring new skills in order to “keep on putting out things that excite people” is integral to the success of the Chinese market. “We are kind of like a sponge, always absorbing, absorbing. That's my philosophy too, to learn, to share, and to exchange.” Her time at London’s Central Saint Martins was one such act of absorption — specifically, a slogan written on the fashion school’s tote bag. “It says ‘Art is not about education.’ I think what they [mean] is that art is something that you can explore, you can find who you are and what you really love. I love this because education in China is always like [teaching] you how to make pants, how to make that little detail, but when I was studying in the UK I felt absolutely free. And I can explore my culture at the same time.”
It sounds like exploring the dynamics of East and West through art has always been a huge part of Chen’s life. As a child, her dream wasn’t to work in fashion but to become a ballet dancer, a career her father encouraged. Together, they spent a lot of time watching ballets on TV and going to symphony concerts. “He had really huge love [for] Western theater, dancing, art, and music, and things like that. When I started to look at fashion, the first person who impressed me was John Galliano. [His] 2007 show was originally inspired by Madame Butterfly, the play. It's also an opera: singing, music, dancing. The fashion that influences me is never just a product, just clothes, or just a piece, it's always a palace. A mind palace. Like Sherlock Holmes.”
INNERSECT will take place in Shanghai from January 15-17. Discover more here.