Interview: Tianqi Chen

    Tianqi Chen, a New York fashion designer who pays attention to using Macrame and drawstring techniques in her design, recently launched the newest collection called  The Woman Warrior. The collection portrays the women’s strength through fighting emotional struggles. The creation of The Woman Warrior was not easy but significant and meaningful to Tianqi. During the process, she realizes the individual and collective memory of womanhood is embodied in her design. 

    Tianqi, these pieces look amazing. Could you please explain the core idea of The Woman Warrior to us?

    Sure! I was inspired by the anxiety around body images that many people might have experienced. By creating these pieces, I want to bring awareness to women who are going through or have been through the path of relief-finding, to rebuild their confidence and challenge body ideals and gender norms. I believe women have strong power to fight their emotional struggles. 

    Why did you choose to use Macrame and drawstring in this collection?

    I think the processing of Macrame is a conversation with the audience and employing hard and soft materials of the drawstring is the best to represent  the coexistence between vulnerability and strength. The intertwined lines form triangles and rhombi, which symbolize the firmness and resistance behind the seeming gentleness of women.

    Did you use Macrame in your previous design?

    No. I did not realize that I’m the kind of designer who works with my hands until the pandemic. Without a ‘traditional’ studio setting, I had to rethink my design and production approach. Knotting directly onto bodies was simply a solution for not having a sewing machine and pattern table at the beginning. But during this process, I developed a new way of seeing and storytelling. As my eyes travelled with the cording, my hands knotted them together with the histories and entanglements from different individual encounters in mind.

    How do you define your design style?

    I always use the functionality of drawstring to create a transformational system that allows audiences to alter not only the fit but the appearance of garments. My design can be worn by different ages, sizes, heights, and genders. 

    Were there any remarkable moments for you when designing The Woman Warrior?

    Of course! Maybe you guys can’t believe all cording materials used in this collection were dead stock donations because it was very hard to find a factory to produce and model to fit during Covid-19 quarantine. I used natural dye to modify the shade of materials and was inspired to hand knot all looks directly onto bodies to reduce waste. All cording could be disassembled to recreate new pieces.

    You were an editor before you refocused on fashion design? Why did you want to switch your career path?

    Fashion design is my lifetime passion. When I was in college, I experienced some cultural conflicts and spent time identifying myself. After I joined the Parsons School of Design MFA program, I experimented with Macramé and crochet and it led me got the knitwear internship  opportunity at Thom Brown and contractor jobs after graduation. I think I did a good choice on my career path. 

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