Wen Pan's thirst for life and history that so beautifully translates into her designs, is a passion born from birth. From her humble beginnings in China, to her burgeoning career as a designer in London, she takes inspiration from everywhere. Pan approaches design from a 360 perspective, clothes have more of a narrative than others, so it's no surprise that before studying womenswear at Central Saint Martins she studied Chinese Literature. With an immense sense of knowledge and respect for design, Pen's future in fashion is sure to soar.
For the upcoming Fall Winter Collection, the inspiration comes from traces of working girls in factories. The color and brushed, foggy mood comes from John Minton’s painting, who paints a lot of working-class people and industrial cities. Wen Pan wants to join fragment pieces by using workwear belts, hardware details. So the message continues to be fragility and resistance, showing a combination of femininity and strength. Wen keeps making something good for women ready to wear, whether on street or on occasions to show statements.
Fabrics are all from Italy and Japan, some have brushed effect, and some are hand painted to indicate the traces. They are wool, cotton, linen, and linen-wool mixtures. Dedicated to details, and materials are carefully selected. Fabrics are kept washed and brushed effects and raw edges.
What's your background? And what sparked your interest in fashion, and how did you get started in designing?
I was born in an industrial city in China. After graduating from Central Saint Martins womenswear course and working in other brands for 3 years, I started my own label in 2018.
I have been interested in drawing and art since very young. When I was in high school, I read an article about Seven Sages of Bamboo, a group of scholars in ancient China. It only described what they wore, but I could picture how they were living and the cool, careless, ‘anti-social’ attitude they had 1000 years ago. That was the time I realized fashion, or clothes could say many things. Then I got to know Central Saint Martins was one of the best fashion colleges in the world, so I applied for it.
What would be the most relevant thing that people need to know about your career?
Before doing fashion, I was doing Chinese literature.
How do you define your style and your brand?
Understated grunge aesthetic with an oriental twist.
What is the process from the beginning to the end of each collection?
I always have an image of a new collection in mind at first. This image can be a person, a scene, or a story. I research deeply on what is behind the image. From the research I decide silhouettes, fabrics, techniques etc. And I am always fascinated by how fabrics and textures cut to make a garment together. There is no need to have a complicated concept each time, but I make sure each collection has something continuous and something new. Each collection should say what the brand is and say it in various ways.
Where do you get your inspiration when you’re designing and creating your collections?
Traces of human beings’ activities and attitudes.
Have you been inspired by the city that you live in? Or by some other city? How important is the environment in which you move when creating a collection?
I am always inspired by surroundings. The road between my studio in Dalston and my home is full of surprise and inspirations. I am living in London, a city that encourages me to think about fashion bravely, whilst I am from China and I have an oriental taste deep inside. The combination of these two really shapes my own aesthetics.
I am a faithful admirer of Asian designers and their contributions to fashion in terms of structures, volumes, cuts and blends of fabrics and different materials; Who are some of your favorites Asian designers?
Yohji Yamamoto and Uma Wang. Yamamoto’s cutting provides unlimited possibilities of how a garment can be constructed. Wang’s imagination of fabrics and textures really brings garments power and life.
What would be the soundtrack of your life as a designer?
Pixies and Mazzy Star.
What do you think about the collaborations of certain brands with big houses? Would you be willing to do one?
Collaborating with brands within a similar universe while different categories would be a great way to provide something surprising and exciting. I would love to collaborate with some great brands; Le Labo and Dr. Martens are the first ones I came up in mind.
How would you change the path you have been on up until today? What expectations do you have for the brand in the future?
I would not change much I guess. I will keep my own pace, and keep creating pieces that can really study on people and cutting further and further and also can be applied to real peoples’ lives. In future, we will have products in wider categories to build an overall aesthetic system.
Can you share a piece of advice for the next generation of designers?
Interview by Andy Durán. Edit by Charlie Newman.
Lookbook FW19 Photography by Auriane Defert.
Model. Yacine Diop at Hive Management