Sometimes with highly personal collections it’s impossible to pick up on all the symbolism and designers inherently weave into their work, but this is not the case with Feng Chen Wang’s bold, futuristic designs. Many are probably aware of this, yet hope the emotion comes through even when the context isn’t always clear. Feng Chen Wang is one of these designers who creates functional, wearable clothing that somehow communicates the intangible things she is thinking about. For her Fall 2019 collection, her mind was on her mother and two siblings, and the experience of growing up in China at a time when it was illegal to have more than one child. Wang relied on a soft color palette to evoke a feeling of peace, serenity and protection representing her mother’s role. Many pieces in the collection feature a print based on a watercolor of the lotus in water, painted by Feng Chen Wang herself. The words SISTER BROTHER are also embroidered on a jacket, the front of a shirt, and dangling as a charm from a necklace. One particularly symbolic piece was a gray puffer jacket with a long extension connecting it to a child’s jacket. The younger child effectively hidden by the older model in walking in front until they turn. It’s a poetic gesture, a visual metaphor of some kind, but it does feel a little on the nose.
Despite the narrative of family relationships, motherly protection, and sibling attachment, the collection is highly wearable, consisting of a blend of sporty athleisure and tailored pieces in roomy silhouettes, combining classic pinstripes, plaid, and khaki with less traditional menswear offerings in pale pink and florals. One of the most striking looks was a textured velvet denim in deep rust and ochre with the blue denim backing showing through as if it was the texture of an old concrete wall, or rust worn sheet metal. It appeared throughout the collection as trousers, jackets of various shapes, and most dramatically as a pullover with a double shoulder detail and sleeves continuing into gloves. Even without the context, it still conveys a feeling of age and wear and feels both architecturally brutalistic and organic. It’s an unusual combination against the powder pink, blue steel, and soft watercolor lotuses in the rest of the collection. However, that’s just another of Wang’s trademarks – reworking masculine themes and forms with a feminine approach and finding that sweet spot to make her clothes wearable by both men and women. Wang also designed her first womenswear capsule this fall and zeroed in on Chuck Taylor’s roots as a basketball shoe, which meant striped track-suit separates and high-tops in a salmon-pink hue embroidered with the words Girl Power.
Wang has made a name for herself since graduating from London’s Royal College of Art and launching her name sake label. In this collection she challenged herself to go beyond streetwear, though even her tailored pieces have some sporty, athletic details such as elastic waistbands and utility pockets. One interesting new silhouette is the transformer shoulder that appeared on windbreakers, puffer jackets, and a beautiful pink wool coat with petal-like armor on the shoulders. Wang also ventured into leather this season, and one look that really stood out was a vibrant blue leather jacket and trouser ensemble that glistened just like the surface of a pool. Wang’s work has an elaborate emotional context that comes through in the subtleties of color, and materials, rather than through metaphor, images, or spelled out in words. If you dig back far enough into her Twitter feed, Wang states “I believe that every single stitching, details, fabric, has emotions, making with full of loves, a garment not only just a cloth, it should mean something…” Though Wang’s work does not always fully convey the inspiration she cites, they still speak for themselves, allowing the wearer to bring their own emotion into the story, which is equally as important.