Starting as a means to cope with and survive her near-death-experience and PTSD, Moon Chang‘s “Hybrid Beauty” brings out “tension and dualism between aesthetic and sense.”
At the heart of the New-York-based designer’s fashion lies an investigation of the inextricable interplay between beauty and ugliness, which she identifies as “an invaluable asset of [her] own visual and psychological vocabulary.” This duality ingeniously parallels her own very aesthetic. She proclaims that, while her “external side” is “black, dark, massive and oversized”, her “internal and hidden” side is “small and cute” and “loves pink.”
Putting our aesthetic judgment to the test and inviting us to look beyond what conventionally constitutes beauty and ugliness, “Hybrid Beauty” challenges and subverts boundaries. The collection, for instance, combining black with pink, adds new meanings to the former colour beyond death and the macabre. To reminisce her debut of “Hybrid Beauty” at New York Fashion Week, Schön! caught up with Moon Chang to discuss the concept behind her fashion collection, her PTSD, her creative inspiration and what she hopes for the future.
You recently graduated from FIT’s MFA. How did you first get into fashion design and when did you know it was something you’d ultimately pursue professionally?
I have a big dream to become a fashion designer since childhood, and I always dreamed about going to New York to study fashion design. So when I was 19 years old, I moved to NYC to study fashion design. While studying fashion, I had a bad accident. I could say I was lucky to live. After that, I suffered from PTSD. However, I could not stop doing fashion. It hurts me so much, but I still really love it. I can say fashion is my life. No matter what happened, I am doing it. I always feel thirsty and desperate to design and try something new, so that’s why I decided to study for a master’s degree in fashion design, and I graduated from the medal winner of the FIT’s MFA fashion design. This dramatic journey leads me to keep activating me as a designer.
You refer to your work as “Hybrid Couture.” Can you explain what this concept means to you?
“Hybrid Couture” is the word that I created to reflect my concept and aesthetic. The concept of “Hybrid Beauty” starts from my personal story — the time I had PTSD, the near-death moment. To deal with this, I tend to go back to childhood, also on the other word “Being Cute.” I use the cuteness to survive from the death situation. The cute features, which have been traditionally used and inherited are ribbons, ruffles, and flowers, [I make] by practising the traditional millinery and couture techniques with using velvet and silk to mould flowers and ribbon foldings. These reinterpret the 17th to 18th-century couture techniques into modern and futuristic versions, the constructions and finishes bring back couture and tailoring techniques, which combined with my aesthetic — beauty and ugliness — so that the get accentuated extremely messily but perfectly finished.
Can you give us an insight into the creative process of your “Hybrid Beauty” collection?
The “Hybrid Beauty” collection starts with creating the hybrid flowers — using traditional couture fabrics’ in hybrid ways. It reinterprets the historical cute features, ribbons, ruffles, and flowers, so the traditional millinery and couture techniques are embedded with velvet, silk, satin, organza and silk fallie, and as a contrast, I combine it with functional materials, like waterproof and recycled nylon, and heat-sealed rubber. Handmade flowers are moulded by velvet with heated floral shape metals founded in the 1950s. Also, the couture origami techniques interpret in various ways with different materials. The hybrid flowers translate into 2D print on silk and sequins, with stuffing, heavy embroidery, and beading to create modern camouflages. Moreover, I create my own closures such as dead rose moulded buckle made out of silicone, which is functional — it overcomes the discomfort of wearing the traditional couture. The collection emphasized old couture techniques in a hybrid version, which is a convergence of dualism: beautiful, cute, but ugly, and dark but romantic.
What would you say is the significance of flowers in “Hybrid Beauty”?
The metaphor of flowers in the “Hybrid Beauty” collection is inspired by my aesthetic as a designer. My aesthetic focus on the dichotomy between beauty and ugliness is an invaluable asset of my own visual and psychological vocabulary. I always give a question to myself: What is beauty? How do we receive beauty? What if beautiful things become ugly? How do they look? To solve these questions, I choose the “pink flower,” which is a universal standard of beauty, as the object to experiment and uglify. In the “Hybrid Beauty” collection, I challenge to break the stereotypes of beauty, and I use flowers as metaphors that beauty can become ugly, and also the ugly can become beautiful.
Can you tell us more about how your newest collection relates to your own artistic and personal motifs?
This “Hybrid Beauty” collection is all about me. I have two different personas. One external side is black, dark, massive and oversized. But the other is internal and hidden one, who loves pink, something small and cute. In this collection, I try to bring the hidden pink one out, as the process of overcoming the trauma. My binary perception illustrates the contrast of the beauty and the beast, the light of purity and the darkness of shadow, dead and alive, and the fantasy and the reality. This dual aesthetic evolves into the imaginary and dark fairytale storyline.
What would you say is the interrelation of abstractness and peculiarity in your collections?
I would say that my collections break the boundaries of judgemental perception with unexpected combinations. ”Hybrid Beauty” brings tension and dualism between aesthetic and senses. I empower “cuteness” as a protective mechanism. I played with the aesthetical judgement around beauty and ugliness. I brought new meanings of black, which means dead, but by combining with pink, I reinterpret it to an eternal colour. There are opposite tensions between maximalism and minimalism in shape, texture and proportion.
Where do you usually get your inspiration from? Are there any themes you find yourself particular attracted to?
I can be inspired by everything, even food, like vegetables. However, my favourite inspiration is my own personal story and experience. I believe there is power in a human’s story. I am always inspired by personal stories and stretch this to social movement to validify. Even this “Hybrid Beauty” collection starts with my own experience as a PTSD patient. I thought this is not just my story, this is a social issue from the hard society. There are many people who have to suffer PTSD in their daily life. I wanted to solve and help this situation as the perspective of a fashion designer. I had many questions from people about how I can be inspired by PTSD, which is a mental disorder. As I mentioned in the beginning, I can be inspired by everything, not just visually, but also something invisible, the hidden meaning and story, can also inspire me.
When it comes to the conception of your collections, do you ever consider fashion trends?
I try not to follow trends. I think a designer is not the one who follows the trend, I think trend should be followed by a designer. I believe, in the future, there will be no seasons or trends. I think what designers create and suggest will become their own seasons and trends. Fashion and art cannot be limited in certain season, trend or number. Seasonless here can be timeless techniques and fabrics, also new approaches to the design and production process. I want to open up a new and creative world of fashion design, reinterpreting the traditionally survived beauty from the past and breaking the boundaries of the perceptions of time.
What made you decide to debut your newest collection at NYFW?
After I graduated from my MFA program, I got many requests from NYFW shows. I realised that many people want to see my collection in public. I thought this would be a good opportunity to show my work to the world about how the conception evolves into the fashion. I wanted to challenge myself as a designer in the industry, and I hope my academic background to support me for further challenges in the future.
What should we expect from you in the future?
I wish my brands to be sustainable and ethical in both design and production process, I promise not to break my belief as a designer among the hard situation. This is our brand mission, Moon Chang is the brand which promotes hybrid couture, which means wearable couture in modern and future days. We use many traditional couture techniques and reinterpret them into modern ways, which brings a new aesthetical point of view that’s also wearable and functional. And my second brand, VENUS IN BLACK, which will be launched next year. Venus is mostly received as the goddess of beauty, however, Venus is my muse, black French bulldog. I interpret Venus as the symbol of the dualism, which is also related to my design aesthetic and philosophy, “Hybrid Beauty.” VIB is ready to wear and product-based, that customers can wear it while walking with their dogs. My brands seek a sustainable and ethical approach to design and production process. I will work on enhancing animal rights, I do not use animal leather and furs. I promise to be a sustainable and ethical brand born from the love for coexistence with human and animal, and with human and nature.
all clothing. Moon Chang
photography. Venus Chang
fashion. Moon Chang
model. Malka Hynan
photography. Siyu Tang @ Nois Studio NYC
fashion. Moon Chang
model. Malka Hynan
words. Edwin Boadu