FJU Talents SS19 London Fashion Week

Combining politics and fashion is a risky thing to do. It takes skill to craft clothes that creatively tell a story without being gimmicky, yet this is exactly what the designers at the FJU showcase achieved with their creations. Fu Jen Catholic University graduates Ming Jo Hsieh, Kai Ting Chen and Yi Hsuan Wang were selected by Taiwanese industry experts to show at London Fashion Week. Each of the designers completed a three month training scheme under creative director Johan Ku in preparation for the Fashion Scout runway.

The designers took a key look, colour scheme and fabric, and expanded on it throughout their collections using different silhouettes. These were conceptual designs with political weighting, inspired by Chinese and Taiwanese culture.

First up was Ming Jo Hsieh. Plastic has been dominating the news lately and, interestingly, also the catwalks this season - though in Hsieh’s designs the origins are definitely ethical. Materials such as cartons, newspapers, burlap sacks and plastic bags were transformed into striking printed trousers, jackets, shorts, and bags. Rope and net also featured noticeably in the looks. A real standout from Hsieh’s collection were the Perspex ankle boots. These featured the recycled printed fabric as sock linings, as well as hand painted Mandarin symbols. One particular (English) word featured prominently on Hsieh’s designs: ‘recycle’. This adorned an oversized drawstring bag, a billowing cape and jackets.

Next to present was Kai Ting Chen. She says her designs were inspired by the film ‘City of Life and Death’, and the struggles faced by the army within it. Chen opened with a brilliant white military uniform, the back of which was crafted from newspaper-print fabric. This print was from coverage of the 1937 Nanking massacre in China. Subsequent looks were created solely from the newspaper print. These were designed to deconstruct the military uniform, and each one was more dismantled than the last, with the fabric becoming darker with each look. In doing so, Chen aimed to show the cruelty of war and the treasure of peace. This was conceptual design at its best, with storytelling central to the garments.

Yi Hsuan Wang was the last designer to showcase. His creations were inspired by Taiwan’s traditional Ba Jia Jiang face totem. A simple palette of white, black and red formed the basis of designs. The collection primarily comprised of dresses, all of which were crafted from waffle fabric. These were then adorned with geometric shapes akin to Ba Jia Jiang’s traditional face paint, forming pouch-like gatherings, asymmetric necklines and jutting hips. Wang’s designs were especially elegant and, despite their firm rootings in historic Taiwanese culture, there was a space age quality to the garments. Barely-there white stilettos and slicked back hair completed the look.

Despite hailing from a country not renowned for its political standpoint, these emerging Taiwanese graduates have showcased exactly how to tackle global issues through fashion. Their collections may have focused on conceptualism rather than wearability, but the designs remained strikingly imaginative and, ultimately, beautiful.

By Alice Cruickshank.