Johnny Wang studied Fashion Design at Regent’s University, was involved in editorial styling for Vogue Italia and MIXTE, and worked for Alexander McQueen, Sir Tom Baker Bespoke Tailoring, and Phoebe English previous to starting up his own fashion label. The founder and creative director of BCollide, he talks to Schön! about his creative process, daily routine and his sources of inspiration. We discover what it is like to be a young entrepreneur in one of the world’s most competitive industries today.
How did BCollide come about?
BCollide combines ‘BC’ and ‘Collide’. ‘BC’ has no religious connotation here; it denotes a point from which the design should evolve honestly and purely. ‘Collide’ summarises the perpetual motion of lifestyle in a city like London. To a certain extent, BCollide reflects some aspects of my current life too.
Most of my female friends are young working professionals. We often discuss fashion and they would express their needs to me. Our conversations involve a lot of debate about the balance between creative design and practicality. For BCollide, it was their views that inspired me and contributed to the concept behind the label. BCollide is for young working professionals in cities. They are cool, maverick, ambitious, and enjoying their newly found independence — and the confidence and pride that come with it — in the form of a regular income. It’s an exhilarating experience in one’s life!
So when you talk about balance between creative design and practicality, what does that entail? Have you found any solutions?
I feel a lot of young designers, especially those who’ve had formal training in fashion design, struggle at some point during building a start-up business. Fashion design, as education, can be very exclusive, unforgiving and only highly value artistic expression. Now, as an entrepreneur, I face a different set of challenges — commercial viability and marketability of the products. My experience from working within the industry really helps me evaluate ideas from both creative and practical ends, however.
For BCollide, we explore one idea, many times until it’s translated into functional products. The process involves a lot of experimental pattern cutting and garment finishing, yet the practicality doesn’t only refer to garments but also to running the business. Building a business from scratch presents challenges on a daily basis. There are so many things to do. It’s very thrilling and humbling.
Your debut collection, OCD TEST, is ‘designed to exercise the unease triggered by the mis-alignment in everyday objects’. How did OCD come to constitute the main inspiration for the collection?
I experience this particular form of uneasy feeling when I see, for instance, a manhole cover in the street is slightly offset and the road markings wouldn’t match perfectly. It’s a very personal subject. I’m presenting this problem to my audience in designs aimed to stimulate senses with a bit of humour, if one gets it.
This collection investigates a particular form of OCD that is induced by the mis-alignment in everyday objects. It takes a witty approach as opposed to a medical diagnostic one. The designs present an argument or a problem from a different angle. With the confrontational visuals that they bear, my audience can have a light-hearted chuckle when they suddenly realise ‘Oh, this happens to me too’.
What are your main artistic influences, within both visual arts and the world of fashion?
I’ve had a lot of influences while going through the educational process, to the point where I got a little lost. Going around galleries and seeing sculptures and art was furiously encouraged at college and university. I question my own design philosophy all the time, and avoid the ‘formula’ that is ‘one finds inspirations and reconfigures them’. For BCollide, the play with these conventional forms of clothing is explicit. What is done on top of those elements is the design, be it a solution to a problem or a problem of a solution. In this sense, BCollide is quite a naughty one, hence its rebellious undertone.
The introduction video for OCD TEST seems rather sharp and tense, playing on emotional insecurity and a deep sense of unease. Where did your fascination with the dark side of the brain spring from?
BCollide is honest. Honesty sometimes can be confrontational and brutal. The video confronts insecurity. Like the collection, the video aims to stimulate senses. I’m fascinated by the sensation I have when responding to my surroundings — it could be joy, amusement, and accomplishment, but also sorrow, depression, and failure. The OCD TEST collection plays on a slightly troubling subject indeed, but I do hope that the result is delightfully different.
Would you consider a collaboration?
I yearn for collaborations. Collaborations for me are like putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle, just with more hands and brains. The same idea can be interpreted and realised in so many ways. Most importantly, it will be a dream come true to work with people who share a similar ideology in design; the creative comrades.
What does a day-to-day schedule involve for you?
I’m currently working solely on my own, so I’m taking care of everything: researching, designing, pattern cutting, sourcing, sampling, fitting, book keeping, PR-ing, branding and marketing. I do take Sundays off though, it’s the one day a week I can detox and recuperate.
Is the deconstruction of the conventional lines of garments a creative direction that you would like to explore in future collections?
The deconstructed elements in this collection serve the concept, as opposed to the brand’s aesthetic. Elements are meant to look like they’ve been sliced open and rotated, and convince the audience it’s an intended design. If another future idea requires leaving certain parts of the design unfinished, it’ll be done only to convey the idea, but it’s not a necessity.
On a final note, what comes next for BCollide?
BCollide debuts with OCD TEST as a luxury womenswear label. I’ve started to research for the next collection. I’m working on ‘Re-define’, which is to challenge the stereotypical use of certain fabrics and the connotation of conventional garments. Hopefully BCollide can bring a different set of dialogue to the table of design.
To see more of BCollide, and to discover the OCD TEST collection, click here.
Words / Anca Dunavete
This BCollide editorial was produced by