i-am-chen Fashion Scout Merit Award Winner SS19 London Fashion Week

Young Hong Kong based designer Zhi Chen created her brand just a year ago, but that year has been immense for her womenswear imprint, i-am-chen. The label has not only received several prestigious awards, including from Lane Crawford, the International Woolmark Prize, Shanghai Fashion Week, Łódź and, of course, Fashion Scout, but it has also stocked original pieces in the likes of Browns and Machine-A, and even commissioned an exclusive design for MoMa’s ‘Is Fashion Modern?’ exhibition. For a newly emerging designer, Chen has defied the trend of failing fashion brands; exponentially excelling in her field by creating fashion that is led by creative textiles.

For S/S ’19, i-am-chen presented a colourful collection inspired by the 1994 Vietnamese film ‘The Scent of Green Papaya’. Its rich, vibrant pieces beautifully expressed the visual ideas within the drama - such as rays of sunlight and drops of water through the use of delicate textures - soft pleats, delicate knits. These were combined with bold colours and patterns reminiscent of risograph printing. Candy pink tickled lime green, peppermint softened electric blue, and sunshine yellow met loudly with fiery red. All was presented in the context of Chen’s state-of the art knitwear techniques, such as her signature dense Lycra knit developed with world-class textile technicians and advanced machinery.

Key looks that hammered home the talent of this young fashion designer and of her stylist Natali D, included a boxy two piece clearly referencing the 1960’s mod era, printed with a green and white barcode grid, styled with a floppy visor sunhat in delightful powder blue leather. Another highlight was the Riviera style striped skirts and dresses, with pleats these juxtaposed black with neon pastel prints, inspired by the cheerful, playful art of David Hockney and Alexander Calder.

To accessorise her elegant and ladylike silhouettes, there was a contrast to this softness through toughness- as in the brash, brazen jewellery piercing lips, ear and even sunglasses. There was also an edge of sportiness- as in the athleisure-meets-Riviera cruise elements of visor hats, sweatbands, totes, slip-on shoes and tennis socks. This show was the injection of optimism that this season so desperately needs. It is without a doubt that i-am-chen is not just one to watch, but one to keep an eye on for many years to come.

By Ruth MacGilp. Images shot for us by Hannah Gordon-Smith