THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS WITH HER F/W 2011 COLLECTION
Story by Kate Kilgour
Behind-the-scenes photos by Troy Manning
Runway photos by George Pimentel
Before Angela Chen showcased her F/W 2011 collection at Toronto’s LG Fashion Week, she took time to chat with Plaid in between last-minute show preparations and model fittings. To see the whole collection debut a couple of days later to a completely packed house was such a treat. With 99% of the OR line hand-knit by Chen herself, the array of pieces on the runway was an impressive display of her skill.
Inspired by the artwork of Jonathan Lasker, Chen used “thick and thin yarn to create his lines,” she says. “All of his work spoke to me, because of his sporadic lines and spontaneous use of black and white with contrast colours.” This contrast definitely came across in her hand-knit pieces, often with accompanying purple nylons. An off-the-shoulder black sweater had a big, white diamond shape in the middle, an item that could easily hang in my closet. It was with these loose knits that Chen really excelled, touching on a wearer’s craving for comfort without sacrificing style.
OR’s fall season has a strong emphasis on layering, which allows one to play with different materials. Chen produced many separates that will definitely be in high-demand for university-aged consumers, ideal for weekend-wear, and mixing your denim and plaids with something other than hooded sweatshirts and basic cable knits.
Chen is a Vancouver native and Parsons graduate, so I inquired as to how each city, on opposite coasts, infiltrate her design ethics and personal approach. “Growing up in Vancouver, it’s all about the ‘West’ coast. Its about the knits, the comfort, the organics,” said Chen. “In New York it’s all about the sophistication; the hard edge and the shapes of the silhouettes. I tend to combine these two [things] in my designs.”
She achieved this balance of interesting shapes with her oversized sweaters and dresses, but kept the collection wearable for a more urban clientele with a neutral palette and skin-baring cuts. A voluminous knit black mini skirt with a matching sleeveless top is a perfect example; this look would be incredible for a winter evening, but is still feminine and chic.
Beyond her impressive career as a designer, Chen also teaches a course in Vancouver about fashion design. This Fashion Design Workshop has “design concepts, pattern making, illustration, so it’s really something for high school students. I feel like a lot of [them] are really lost. They’re not sure what they want their future to be. They see the glamorous part of fashion, but are not sure if they want to spend their money on a BFA or something [else]….My short six-week course is a little glimpse of what they’ll be doing in college.”
Having interned with Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui and Carolina Herrara, Chen has plenty of wisdom to impart, no doubt. From her initial youthful ambitions to the reality of putting together a runway show for Toronto Fashion Week (as well as shows in Vancouver and Shanghai), to hand-knitting almost every single piece she sent down the runway, she’s someone whose word is worth taking.
When I ask about her time frame for a S/S 2012 collection, she laughs. “Oh, pretty much after this fashion week is over I continue!” I look forward to the growth of OR by Angela Chen – the name ‘OR’, by the way, representing choices. “It’s about how everyday we don’t stick to one style. We change depending on how we feel that day. OR is about possibilities.”
Chen hits the nail on the head, philosophically and visually, with this ideal of endless options. In November, we may want a knit one-piece, and post-holiday, a gigantic cozy sweater. During her show, I found myself saying, “I want that and that!” more than “this or this”, and surely that’s the mark of a designer who’s here to stay.