Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia – between Trend and Tradition
The concept of the brand Shiatzy Chen is based on the steadfast blending of Chinese culture with current global fashion trends.
I wanted to create something that reflects Chinese culture, yet manages to achieve global recognition; a brand that would make China proud.
“There was a time in China when people wanted only non-Chinese brands in order to demonstrate how cultured and international they were,” Chen recollects. It cost her a lot of courage and tenacity to adhere to her original concept, yet it was worth it in the end. For several years now, an opposing trend has gained the upper hand and Chinese customers are curious to rediscover their roots. People have once again become proud of their age-old traditions and their ethnic traits. So much so that they even want to clothe themselves in the spirit.
Basic Chinese fashion elements derive from the Tang and the Song dynasties. Shiatzy Chen’s commitment to Chinese culture is obvious in its fashion designs: silk and satin are the most frequently used materials, often decorated with flower, butterfly, and dragon prints. A traditional women’s garb, the Qipao, a long shirt that skirts the ankles, has been recreated in different versions in the fashion house’s collections. The Qipao is a garment for special occasions, always with a closed collar, slits on the sides and the unique frog closures on the shoulders. Chen also employs other traditional elements such as Chinese patterns and small buttons in her designs. To stay abreast of current trends, the traditional elements are visually modernized to meet the zeitgeist. The buttons, for example, while remaining the same size, are designed to incorporate global trends without attempting to disguise the product’s cultural origins. In doing so, Chen is not hoping to win over a certain clientele; her intentions are simply to remain faithful to the brand’s core values.
A good brand does not reduce its clientele to a certain customer group. It remains available to everyone.
It is Chen’s dream to immortalize the beauty of Chinese culture with her collections and create a greater understanding for it on a global level.
Due to the sedate development of the brand, large changes only take place every 5 to ten years. In 2001, a store in Paris was opened and, in 2005, the flagship store was opened in Shanghai.
It is difficult to find a well-frequented location for a store anywhere, but no place is more difficult than Shanghai.
Once in a good location, the logical consequence is that you find yourself in a very competitive environment: the rivalry amongst global brands in the choice locations is so tough that it is no longer possible to take time off. Nor is it easy to move in international circles. As a small, independent company from Taiwan, it is difficult for Shiatzy Chen to assert itself against large concerns like the Chanel group. But Chen’s stamina dictates: do not let yourself be intimidated; instead, allow yourself to be inspired.
A successful brand has to have something that inspires others. Both the competition and the admirers must see it as an example and want to learn from it.
Often it is at Paris fashion shows that Chen encounters inspiring brands from which she hopes to learn something – be it in the area of management, marketing, or design. In Asia, Chen is frequently referred to as the “Chanel of Taiwan.” She is especially proud of this, as she considers Coco Chanel and her brand to be legendary.
It is important to have someone to look up to, someone who inspires you.
The similarities between both brands are obvious: each brand was created and is directed by a strong woman. Both represent characteristic, bold products. A trained eye can recognize a Chanel coat miles away. And the same goes for Shiatzy Chen fashionware. What’s more, both brands embody a classic look. While Chanel represents the French woman, Shiatzy Chen stands for the Asian woman.
Shiatzy Chen places great store on internal branding. Before every change, before every minute step in connection with expanding the brand, Chen and her husband ensure that everything is organized internally, that all the employees are on the same level. Be it in the design or business team, everyone is trained until they understand international standards and are familiar with the company’s quality demands. An exhausting, but worthwhile undertaking according to Chen.
To arrive where Shiatzy Chen is today required, first and foremost, a lot of persistence.
But then, Chen has always had perseverance. She did not have the opportunity to get a good education, so she put all her energy and stamina into improving her talent for sewing, continually attempting to better herself.
Sometimes I myself am not aware of how much I work. I rise like the sun, I work, and in the evening I go down again. And no conscious effort goes into it.
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