The old adage claims that there is "no substitute for experience." In the fashion world, however, a good case could be made for vision. I think it was Doug Rader who said that, "If experience was so important, we'd never have had anyone walk on the moon." This is where we may begin to understand the up-and-coming San Francisco designer Ken Chen. He has been at this for just under a year and is already turning heads fast enough to keep chiropractors in business. I had the pleasure of hosting his show at SF Fashion Week 2011 and was proud to see him nominated for best emerging designer in the 2011 SF Fashion Awards. We have now worked together several times and he contributed some of the men's wear for SOLZ' recent SOLZtice "Catwalk of Shame." Every single time he has showed, I have gotten repeatedly hit with questions and praise about his work. Taking influences from architecture and entertainment, he calls his style extravagant yet elegant. He may be new on the scene but he is going paces fast. In fact, if you hope to keep up you may need a DeLorean. In the future we may not need roads, but where we're going ... we may need his clothes.
SOLZ: Do you feel your formal education helped prepare you for working in the industry? What education and training has helped prepare you the most?
Ken: I learned a lot of technical sewing skills at FIDM in the short time I was there. Currently I'm enrolled at AAU for fashion design and they have certainly have supported me and KEN CHEN San Francisco to become what it is. At the same time, I learned a lot from just going through with it. Every step is a learning experience, and I been very fortunate to work with amazing and helpful people.
SOLZ: Did you always know you wanted to do fashion design?
I've always been extremely interested in fashion, yes, but I didn't always know I would be designing. It wasn't until I started working as an intern that I realized I might be capable of designing and constructing my own collection. That's when I really started designing with the intention of having a successful brand. Since then, my ideas and expectations have become much more complex and precise. I've never been more focused.
SOLZ: Your style has been called "boldly futuristic." What does this mean to you? Do you see your art as predicting the future, or perhaps guiding it?
The future of of Earth, technology, and our daily life has a lot to do with design, and how possible it is to realize. Tomorrow we will be living the world we design today and I think a lot of people are aware of that right now. I think my designs have been called "futuristic" because the shapes are so unconventional or like science-fiction, but to me I think of "futuristic design" as something that is practical and probable, not fantasy. It has to work, and I think that's where the "bold" part comes in. Because, the futuristic ideas that work will work today.
SOLZ: What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to get involved in the fashion industry?
I don't think it's very hard to get involved in fashion in San Francisco. That's a really great thing about this city, it's very accessible. I would find out who puts on shows and send them an email and see if they need help in the next one. Or if you're interested in photography talk to a photographer. A lot of the people I've met doing this have been really wonderful and easy to get along with. In short, I'd say, "do it." You may find that it's not for you or you might realize you want nothing else! But definitely do your homework and know your craft, you will be much more valuable. Everyone who has a dream to be in fashion have to be prepared for LOTS of hard work, it's not all glamour.
SOLZ: People say, “Its all about the shoes.” As a fashion professional, why do you think shoes are so important?
We do put a lot of importance in shoes at shows because they complete the look and can help tell the story of your collection! Shoes are part of the whole and are just as important as every other aspect, so they must be perfect. We specifically designed a shoe line to go with our 2012 collection, so keep an eye out for that.
SOLZ: You have now worked with SOLZ in several shows and were recently featured in our SOLZtice launch show. Why do you think SOLZ roll-up flats are a good fit for fashion shows and the fashion community in general?
Having the right shoe for the right moment is crucial. If you walk the runway or if you are on-the-go working you need a reliable pair of shoes that doesn't weigh you down or add clutter. Models will come with just their SOLZ
shoes and be able to tuck them a way in a bag, wear whatever shoes they need for the look and know they have their comfortable shoes waiting. I think thats why SOLZ
are considered the perfect "2nd Pair" in the industry. The SOLZ
show was great because the models walked in their SOLZ
- happy feet mean happy models and we have gotten so many comments about the happy, positive energy of that show. The shoes may be the secret....
SOLZ: I recently hosted San Francisco Fashion Week 2011 and sponsored the GO Define:Beauty show, at both, I can assure you, your line was a hit. What has been your favorite show so far and what would be your dream show to be in?
All the shows have highlights, and every show gets a little easier because we know what to expect and a little harder because we insist on raising our standards. Our dream show would be: exclusive, entertaining, and trendsetting.
We'll be adding more items to our site, and we're currently working on a new collection that will debut February 2012 in New York Fashion Week.