Angie Chuang's Constructivism Collection Interview
Angie Chuang showed off her Contructivism Collection at dapperQ's last runway show at The Brooklyn Museum.
I'm always captivated by her work and couldn't wait to get a more in depth look about her process for creating the collection. It features 6 outfits inspired by the Russian Constructivism Era, which Angie characterizes as a movement that created art which served a purpose; design and aesthetic that followed function. Her new pieces push the edges of art and fashion by combining striped prints, bold blocks of black, white, and beige, and red, and paneled appliqués (attaching smaller pieces of fabric to the garment to create pattern.)
What attracted you to the idea of basing your collection off Russian Constructivism?
I was attracted to the angular lines of the period’s architecture and the bold geometric graphics and color blocking of the propaganda posters and artwork. Varvara Stepanova, one of the key artists of the movement also designed clothes. She believed in a genderless functional quality to clothes rather than the decorating purpose of fashion for the aristocratic elite. I thought it was interesting in how trying to escape fashion, Stepanova’s looks still looked ‘fashionable’ in its simplicity and modernity.
It’s funny because after I finished this collection, I remembered this old Russian propaganda poster by Alexander Rodchenko (below) I used to hang in my college dorm room. Even before I began designing, I’ve been attracted to this aesthetic.
What design elements hold this collection together?
The lines in their different weights on the stripe print, the color blocking, and the paneled appliqués.
In what ways did you challenge yourself as a designer for these pieces?
For this collection, I experimented with different silhouettes and new techniques. Many of the pieces were asymmetrical. It was fun patternmaking and draping the garments because I was literally drawing lines that I pulled from my inspiration. There was a lot of trial and error because what I imagined on paper would fall differently on a human body. The proportion of where the hemlines and each individual piece fell took a few tries to achieve.
For the silhouette of one specific tunic, I played with lines frequently seen on the propaganda posters and artwork. This silhouette had many individually sewn strips of fabric. The bell shaped dress required that I build a structure underneath that played up the dramatism that I wanted in the shape of the dress. It took many tries with different materials to achieve that shape.
How do you feel that your pieces challenge the gender binary?
This year I think I’ve grown and explored new notions of challenging the gender binary in that altogether I’ve stopped thinking about the masculine and/or feminine labels of garments. I made 2 dresses and a skirt this year but I wouldn’t call them feminine, minus the bell-shaped dress. For that dress the model was my muse and I imagined a severe femininity that exuded elegance and power.
When I am in the process of designing a collection, I don’t necessarily set out to challenge the gender binaries — it just happens and is what feels natural. In a way, I think it’s unconscious so it’s a bit difficult to explain.
I noticed that your drawings are very boxy and militaristic, in contrast to the runway shots which look like they have more flow to them. Can you tell me about your decisions around flow vs. boxiness?
At first I wanted to to create silhouettes that were boxier and sat on the body in a more structured way. Once I draped the fabric onto the forms, I found that the fabrics I’ve chosen were indeed softer and fell on the body in ways that I did not expect. I liked it and thought it became less expected and more genderless.
Check out more of Angie's preliminary drawings from the collection on her website.