× Shop Archive About about contact jobs magazine advertising terms & conditions privacy policy Follow Instagram Facebook

In conversation with CHENPENG

“Beneath the joyous tranquillity of life lies the turbulent undercurrents.”

It was 2015, and at the age of only 24, Peng Chen founded his eponymous brand CHENPENG. Fast forward almost a decade later and his designs have reached a global stage, maintaining a promise to push forward one-size fashion pieces while pioneering the limits of craftsmanship. Hailing from China and graduating from LCF in Menswear Fashion Design Technology, the designer has radicalized what inclusivity in fashion means. We had the pleasure of catching up with the designer and discussing the brand’s FW24 collection; an incredibly personal yet structurally playful. From challenging traditional canons of aesthetics to the importance of craft, Chen is proving that his unapologetic touch is here to stay.

Hey Peng! You certainly have a fascinating story, making your way across two different worlds. Tell me more about your journey.
I was born in Jingdezhen, the capital of porcelain in China. I have been fascinated in art since I was a child. In the process of studying in Britain, I began to learn fashion design. At that time, the general environment of the fashion industry still had strict requirements for body shape. I saw a breakthrough, began to study the human body structure, used down material to express the distribution of fat in human musculoskeletal, and designed my graduation work. Down has a high degree of fluffiness, is lightweight, and has strong plasticity, making it the most perfect material for expressing fat distribution. Also, I see puffers like porcelains very much.

That’s beautiful, drawing new connections between an art form and material. On top of it all, you started your brand CHENPENG at only 24! What’s it like navigating the fashion industry from such a young age?
It has been a wonderful journey! Most of my relatives are working in the traditional Chinese art industry, and I always knew I wanted to do something special and different. I am lucky to shown at London Fashion Week ‘24 and get such an international platform. The first order from SSENSE also affirmed my ambition in the fashion industry. But running fashion as a business is not easy for all designers…I have had to learn HR, PR, accounting and so forth. It has been a very enjoyable experience with endless unpredictable challenges.

Describe your brand in 3 words.
Creativity. Possibility.  Responsibility.

When I think of CHENPENG, the first thing that comes to mind is the idea of one-sized fashion. This is radical considering that while we have seen – some  – progress in fashion regarding inclusivity. For your brand, being size-inclusive is a mission. Can you talk about this concept and what it means for you?
When I was a graduate student, the reason why I studied body shape was that my good friend was larger whereas I was always thin, so it was often difficult for the both of us to find clothes that fit our fashion aesthetic taste in most of the big house brands at that time. So I began to study how to create clothing structures and silhouettes suitable for various shapes, hoping to give the public more simple choices.

CHENPENG puts forward the fashion equalitarianism(one-size fashion). Wearing the same dress, people of different body shape will embody different beauty.  Nowadays, everyone pursues more personalized personal expression. Everyone is their own decision maker. The younger generation has become more and more inclusive. People will gradually blur the reasons for size, gender, skin colour, etc., which is a sign of progress.

Your sense of aesthetics is exciting. Your designs have been challenging traditional canons by blurring the lines between notions of beauty and ugliness. Can you elaborate more on that?
Everyone’s aesthetics are different and respectful. I encourage the expression of personality though it may change during the life time. It is important to always show who you are and reveal the real-me at all time. With each collection, I keep going on this idea and showed my inner side to the audience.   

Let’s talk about your latest collection. It was a deeply personal show that explored the highs and lows of life. What was the process of making this collection like?Beneath the joyous tranquillity of life lies the turbulent undercurrents. 2023 encapsulates many defining moments for myself. Moments of happiness brought by professional and personal achievements, as well as the darkest moment of losing my beloved father. The whole process is filled with conflicting and intense emotions, receiving good and bad news one by one. 

Wow, I am sorry for your loss. Is the choice of red and black in this collection related to this?
Red is the colour for passion and danger, while black exudes solemnness and mystery. The two clashing colours are symbolic of the complexity of our emotional realm. These two colours perfectly match the idea when I am working on this collection, so I want to make the show cleaner, making strong vision conflict by only using red and black.

We also saw a lot of crystals and flowers. What do these two elements add to the collection? What do they mean to you?
Firstly, the two elements enhanced the texture of the collection. They create the barrier of red and black. Also, crystals represent the tears of sadness and happiness, and flowers represents the memories of achievements and highlights.

You are very consistent when it comes to the shape of your garments. Your silhouettes are always so beautifully intricate. Where do you draw your inspiration from when designing such a collection?
Following a showcase of couture down-eveningwear last year, CHENPENG Fall/Winter 2024  introduces the concept of tailored down-suits, inspired by the bespoke suits hand made for my late father. Marrying traditional tailoring craftsmanship with down jacket techniques, the collection features an ensemble comprising the black top hat, dinner suit, and Derbies. On the hand the bold silhouettes of all the gowns are part of CHENPENG’s tireless pursuit for exquisite forms, all inspired by the ceramic culture of Jing De Zhen where he spent his formative years. The bisque shapes including the prunus vases are representative of exquisite level of art and craft from the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties. Adorned with artificial crystals, each piece signifies a myriad of luminous moments and cherished memories. Fashion’s genesis intertwines with life’s vignettes—birth, maturity, mortality. The red and black flower embellishments are also simply an ode to the vitality and fragility of life. 

Speaking of silhouettes, your designs never lack an element of surprise and boldness. While eccentric shapes are omnipresent, you always manage to maintain a practical and clean flow between your looks. Where do you find this balance?
“Art” is the soul, “commerce” is the body. The soul needs the body as the carrier, the business model is the means, it needs art to convey the content. The biggest difference between “art” and “product” is how much audience the creator wants to understand his heart. Every quarter, CHENPENG will maintain a certain number of conceptual works to convey our thoughts and thoughts, and at the same time, it will be spread through some easy understanding business cooperation. I also learned a lot through the experiences collaborating with many industry leaders.

You have a unique presence in today’s fashion world. While other designers seem to run after the most recent trends, you stay true to a personal vision. What’s the key to staying relevant in the industry without adhering to trends?
I think the key is communication. All designers want is to show on the big stages like Paris Fashion Week. We have to realize that it is not the only chance to communicate to the world. I rarely isolate myself during the development – though sometimes i do need a single room to concentrate – It’s always necessary to hear new voices and get more inspiration after thinking. 

The questions you have raised with CHENPENG are crucial. In particular, you have been re-establishing the relationship between craftsmanship and designing clothes. In a world where everyone has become increasingly disconnected from their clothes, feeding into a consumeristic loop, I’m curious to know what craftsmanship means to you. Where does this necessity of aligning fashion and craftsmanship come from?
For me fashion is not only about consumeristic loop, it is about the collision of culture and history. Craftsmanship reflects different lifestyle and stories of a city or a country, it adds souls to clothes, it makes clothes fashion rather than a simple product. I am a fan of museums and have been to many exhibitions of big fashion house. Every time, I read and learn a lot from those stunning pieces and thanks to craftsmanship, those looks have survived till now and I can recall them so vividly. 

What is your favourite look from this collection?
It is hard to pick only one. But if I had to I would say last one. For the closing look for FW23, I designed a white puffer wedding dress, so this collection closed with a black puffer wedding dress. It is like the marriage between me and fashion. We had a wonderful beginning and memorable farewell, and now it’s the time to start a new journey. 

You have collaborated with brands like Moncler and MM6. What’s your dream collab?
For next collab, I really wanna try more on craftsmanship, so it would be appreciated if given chance to work with brands like CHANEL, LOEWE, LOUIS VUITTON.

What’s the next step for CHENPENG?
I think now is the time to reorganize the structure of CHENPENG. I always want to express everything during the fashion week and it sometimes causes confusion. So for fashion week, CHENPENG will focus more on creativity and couture and craftsmanship, and for customers. I will create another line to meet more daily needs with the same idea but a totally different expression.

And lastly, what is the biggest lesson you have learned from when you started till now.
My experience to share: do not being a single power, unity increases the likelihood of success.

One’s own time and energy are limited, and only through cooperation can one create a miracle where one plus one is greater than two.

Words by Agata Villa
Images courtesy of CHENPENG