Designer Insider: Meiling Chen
Love and care are at the heart of of Meiling Chen’s eponymous label; fashion is a means of artistic and personal expression. At an early age Meiling developed an appreciation for innovation and craftsmanship, and she continues this ethic from her NYC studio. Thoughtful designs, ranging from the bold and sculptural to the romantic and diaphanous, combined with an expert command of sustainable dyes and fabrics, continues to set her collections apart. I was able to meet up with Meiling while she was in London for a proper introduction to her visionary label.
What has led you to this point?
I have always been interested in clothing design. When I was younger, in Taiwan, my father worked as a tailor and I have always been inspired by his work in menswear. I am now based out of NYC and design for women that care about the quality and life of their garments. Each piece is true to my imagination and aesthetic.
How did you become interested in sustainable fashion?
All my life I have been into natural things. Over the years this preference has evolved; it was a logical progression to prefer materials that do not include hazardous chemicals.
How have you introduced sustainability into your label?
For me sustainability is really a matter of balance. Everything in life has two sides, and all clothing has both positive and negative impacts. I focus on being responsible and careful, measuring the balance, and going forward in the most beneficial way possible – assessing each step. All the dyes are plant-based or low impact, and some pieces I hand dye. Reducing waste is also important; I try to combine natural/organic materials with recycled textiles. By recycled I mean things found at markets, and pieces from my wardrobe or donated by friends. I reduce waste through efficient pattern cutting and using off-cuts to make accessories, bags, or stuffed animals.
How do you find the sustainable textile market?
A few years ago I could only find organic cotton or hemp in plain creamy colours, nothing much else was out there. I had to be very creative to make interesting clothing, and it remains a challenge for ethical designers today. Although there is more choice, availability is still very limited. In the future I imagine there will be a greater variety of textiles and prints, allowing designers to make more dynamic pieces. Over the years, prices of sustainable textiles have decreased and this may continue, making sustainable fabrics more affordable. I hope that textile companies will focus on improving the diversity and price of their sustainable offerings.
How can the public do their part for sustainability?
People need to consume more carefully by thinking about if you truly need the garment, how long you will use it, and the life of the piece after you are done with it. Altering or passing garments onto others are fantastic ways of improving your wardrobe’s sustainability.
Your favourite food?
Home made and hand made cooking. It always tastes better because it is made with love and care.