From peek-a-boo crochet pieces to silk kimono inspired cocktail dresses with deep plunging necklines, designer Cheng's Fall 2011 collection caused a stir at Mercedes Benz New York Fashion week with his ultra young and sexy point of view. SW caught up with the designer recently to talk about life, inspiration, and what is next for one of New York's newest faces in fashion.
SW: How old were you when you first knew you wanted to go into Fashion as a career? What inspired you to want to work in the industry?
Cheng: As long as I can remember. I can say for sure that fashion has always been my dream job. My parents have owned clothing stores since before I was born. When I was little, I never really hung out with other kids. I played my own game dressing up the mannequins in the store to see if people would buy the clothes I chose. I loved to help people choose clothes for themselves, and when they liked it, it just made me feel really good! After high school, I went to art school for fine arts, and I realized fashion is even more important than art. People go to museums and admire art. But they choose and then wear fashion. Fashion has a very visceral, emotional component to consumer preferences, something that reaches into the core of our souls and taps into the human desire to do things with our resources that represent something about our individual beings. Fashion is the highest expression of free will and that made me want to become a Fashion designer.
SW: At the young age of 17 you moved from Taiwan to New York City to study fashion at Parsons. How did this, what had to be a radical change in your life and lifestyle impact your point of view as a designer? Did you find being so far away from your family, and everything you were used to difficult in the beginning?
Cheng: After high school, I decided to come to New York, when being in a new place or a new country, you are forced to examine your identity. First, you decompose yourself, trying to recombine your personality and decide how you are going to present yourself to others. It could be a totally different person from who you were. In a place you are familiar with, you might not be able to have this kind of opportunity. In the United States, my black hair and yellow skin became my signature and identity. Everything seems direct and simple. Yet, at the same time, I am living in the shadow of the stereotype of Asians as well. I am the “new me” in the “old me”. In the beginning it was difficult to adjust to the language and the culture. I didn't know where to start or how to start in this business where connections are very important. The good thing I realized later is that since I have the ability to speak Mandarin, that will help me in the future to communicate my design ideas to my overseas producers, so my Asian background will become an asset!
SW: After interning for Philippine designer Marc Rancy, you decided to launch your own line during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2010. What made you decide to set out on your own as opposed to continuing on as a designer at an established label?
Cheng: Marc Rancy is a brand which is based in The Philippines. In the New York office they only did made to order evening gowns and bridal wear. I'm glad I had a chance to work there. I met with clients and talked about the designs, and after some quick sketches which I sent to the designer there, they would make the final design. I was responsible for any last-minute alterations needed on this end. I did that for a while until one day someone told me, what you're doing is already what a designer does, you should start your own line, so then I started!
SW: Tell us about your Fall 2011 collection? What was the inspiration behind the looks? Did you have a particular muse, or iconic influence that you kept in mind while designing the pieces?
Cheng: The Fall 2011 collection is inspired by Japanese Geisha. When geisha were prominent in Japan, they were seen as strong, powerful and independent women, and that's how I feel women should be seen now as well. My goal was to create a new modern look of geisha, for today's urban and sexy women. Strong, independent, urban women are always in my mind when I design, so I guess that would be my muse.
SW: What is next for the Cheng brand? Any previews you can share for the Spring/Summer 2012 collection?
The Cheng brand will still continue and hopefully will move on to the next level! The next S/S 2012 collection will be not only very sexy, strong and powerful, but also dangerous and bold!