Taipei - Marking its third year, the Taipei Fashion Week (TPEFW) fall/winter 2021 season took place with a total of 16 physical shows running from March 10 to 15 at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. Just last week The New York Times reported that Taiwan is thriving as a ‘bubble of normality’ due to the island’s success in keeping Covid-19 infection numbers extremely low. As a result, many citizens have flocked back from abroad and are fueling an economic boom which has seen a growth of more than 5 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the same period in 2019.
Similarly, the Taiwanese fashion industry has turned its spotlight on 13 brands, 6 sustainable labels as well as student designers for FW21. TPEFW celebrated this season as the only fashion week in the world currently able to present safely to a full audience of 8,000 attendees during the 6 day event, according to a source at Condé Nast Taiwan. The event’s organizers stated through its official press release, “as the world continues to grapple with the pandemic, Taiwan is transforming a time of crisis into opportunity. Through its fashion aesthetics, TPEFW offers to reconnect with the international community through innovation, sustainability, functionality and the humanities.”
For the participants, it felt like business as usual (minus the international guests) as a buzzing crowd and excitement to see the new collections filled the air. Local fashion industry mavens, media, influencers, celebrities, and government officials all congregated for the fully physical event. The only obvious reminder of the coronavirus was the CSD medical fashion masks tailor-made for Taipei Fashion Week FW21 that all partakers could be seen wearing.
Designers inspired by nature, Taiwanese heritage, gender-neutrality and fashion’s functionality
Known as the 'Chanel of Taiwan', in 2010 Forbes ranked founder and Creative Director Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia of Shiatzy Chen (established in 1978) as one of the 25 most influential Chinese in the global fashion industry. For the label’s FW21 ready-to-wear collection, Chen focused on the notion of rebellion across time. Gender-neutral looks were seen on the catwalk, matched with heavy fabrics and strong contrasting colors-conveying the connection between female power and styles that transcend time and gender.
The post-pandemic era served as the inspiration for the womenswear design trio Uuin. With backgrounds in creating stage costumes, haute couture and functional wear, the 5 year old label looked to nature and used the ‘Gardener’ as their FW21 theme. This season’s Uuin woman is rich in mind and full of curiosity while cultivating her homeland.
For 25 years, Isabelle Wen has made a mark in the Asian fashion industry with her combination of romantic silhouettes and vintage accents which are drawn from the aesthetics of her renowned literary heritage (Wen’s maternal grandfather was the well known Chinese literary figure and artist Yi Junzuo). To date, Wen’s designs are sold in 17 shops in Taiwan, 2 in Shanghai and she also owns numerous concept stores under the umbrella of her brand. For FW21, her dreamlike ‘Roman Roland’ collection expresses the importance of the free spirit to offer beauty and hope amid this pandemic.
Awarded the DFA Design for Asia Awards in 2019, menswear designer Junliang Chen’s Silzence men was founded in 2017, but he comes from 20 years of industry expertise. Chen said in a press statement, “the FW21 collection is named ‘Void Color’ which is inspired by the colors of Forbidden City artifacts.” On the runway, menswear basics were paired with elegant components such as the Mandarin collar with a colorful border, multi-layered leggings, short padded jackets and long cardigans with a waist belt.
Emerging Taiwanese designers such as Seivson’s Jill Shen believes that clothing should go back to functionality, its ability to connect with daily life and maximize possibilities of styling. Shen started her brand in 2017 and has also been invited to participate in Tokyo Fashion Week. Her FW21 collection is called ‘2062 Morn’ and asks the question, “what is the message in 2062 you’d want to tell yourself now in 2021?”
The full list of designers that presented their FW21 brand collection during TPEFW included Allenko3, Bob Jian, C Jean, Dleet, Douchanglee, Gioia Pan, INF, Isabelle Wen, Seivson, Shiatzy Chen, Silzence men, Uuin, #Damur.
Inaugural Taipei Sustainable Collection
On March 11, TPEFW launched its first Taipei Sustainable Collection show featuring 6 sustainable labels consisting of #Damur, Claudia Wang, Dycteam, Just In XX, oqLiq and Weavism. According to Metabolic, a Dutch consulting company that tackles major sustainability challenges, Taiwan’s textile industry has a long history of specialization in performance fabric made from waste-based products (PET bottles, coffee ground) and are pioneering circularity and sustainability efforts in this region. As a leading hub of sustainable textiles, the Taipei Sustainable Collection represented the strong link between the local fashion designers and the Taiwanese textile industry.
The Vice Minister of Culture, Lee Lien-chuan, announced at the TPEFW press conference: “The inaugural Taipei Sustainable Collection shows the strong collaboration between culture and the Taiwanese economy. Mostly, it presents the five pillars we uphold: Reuse, reduce, recycle, redesign and repurpose. We are not only concerned about the clothing itself, but the broader industrial ecosystem. Through the integration of the Taiwanese fashion industry in the upper, middle and lower reaches, we hope to achieve a circular economy ecosystem from the industrial supply end, brand design end to the consumer end-to where textile factories producing from raw materials are ‘reduced’. Clothing brands reuse existing resources and reduce production energy consumption to achieve ‘recycling’. Finally, consumers buy and ‘reuse’ products to improve resource efficiency.”
Through the integration of the Taiwanese fashion industry in the upper, middle and lower reaches-we hope to achieve a circular economy ecosystem from the industrial supply end, brand design end to the consumer end.
Rin Lin, Executive Assistant to the Director of Condé Nast Taiwan/CNX (who were participating partners of TPEFW FW21) told FashionUnited, “TPEFW will also take ‘sustainability’ as the long-term core target. The scale will continue to expand in the future, and non-fashion week curated exhibitions will also be held to reach more people.”
Sustainable Taiwanese designers and their mission to combat greenwashing
After the shows, FashionUnited sat down with Berlin-based Taiwanese streetwear designer Shih-Shun Huang, founder and Creative Director of #Damur, who held an unconventional crosswalk concert to present his FW21 collection #kiosk and #Travelwear 2.0. Huang shared, “I do believe instead of endless greenwashing, customers need to pay more attention to the understanding of what is sustainability, what’s the metric behind the know-how and concept. To use or shop for organic cotton or recycle fiber products doesn’t mean that you are a sustainable customer.” He added that the challenge for designers now is being able to read the metric and understand the science and math of sustainable researches.
Justin Chou, the designer of Just In XX created a sustainable collection for Taiwanese Olympic athletes to wear during the opening ceremony of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics using fabrics from domestic functional textile manufacturers derived from plastic bottles, industrial waste and non-toxic repurposed fabrics. Chou envisions each piece of his clothing telling its own story of sustainability.
Weavism, a streetwear label started by Tony Chen, the grandson of the founder of HerMin Textile, a Taiwanese functional fabric company established in 1976 that calls companies such as Coach and Tommy Hilfiger clients. Sourcing from his family business’ decades long industry knowledge, Weavism’s FW21 collection was designed with sustainable fabrics developed using only natural materials such as fish protein and entirely biodegradable with the goal of reducing microplastic pollution-usually resulting from the manufacturing of petroleum-based fabrics.
Government support cultivating young talent for an international platform
Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture (MOC), Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) and Ministry of Education (MOE) along with the Taiwan Textile Federation (TTF) as participating partners all joined forces to organize Taipei Fashion Week FW21. This was also the first time the MOE and TPEFW presented 2 days of ‘Young Talent-student’ shows which featured 97 designers from four universities. 3 winners will be chosen by March 25 via online popularity and industry votes. TTF and numerous major Taiwanese textile companies such as Singtex and Far Eastern New Century Corporation (FENC) are all affiliated with TPEFW to directly source the next generation of designers. “TPEFW FW21 provided students with professional runways, models, show directors, media public relations and other resources. This industry-university exchange helps young talent to gain more exposure and actual experience,” CNX TW’s Lin explained.
Business Matchmaking, TPEFW showroom, livestreaming to foreign buyers
Even as a completely physical fashion week, virtual presence was just as important for TPEFW FW21. All the shows were livestreamed and currently on YouTube, influencers were seen live chatting with their followers on the front row. There was also a Business Matchmaking section organized by the MOEA to connect local businesses with global partners. In addition, an ongoing TPEFW FW21 showroom at Bellavita (a 9 level high-end mall near the Taipei 101) is spotlighting 42 brands until March 31-where collections are presented via livestreams for international buyers from France (Merci, Capsule), Hong Kong (Lane Crawford) to Japan (Baycrew’s Group, Isetan).
Photos: courtesy of Taipei Fashion Week, screenshot from TPEFW Instagram, courtesy of AOA Entertainment Lab