Up and coming Taiwanese designer and winner of the Swarovski International Catwalk Competition at 2017’s Graduate Fashion Week, Po- Chieh Chiu, has won a prize that will jump start his career. As the winner of the competition, Po-Chieh won £1,000 prize money along with the opportunity to show his collection with Fashion Scout in September’s London Fashion Week.
Looking through the versatile collection’s textured, raw-edged, heavy duty pieces, it is easy to see a process of development and a story from the designer’s side. We spoke with Po-Chieh to find out his inspirations, and learn more about what went into his collection, the competition, and what it was like to win such a prestigious award.
Hi Po-Chieh! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Graduate Fashion Week must feel so far away now! Let's start with your impressive win...what was your initial reaction when realising you had won the Swarovski International Catwalk Competition at Graduate Fashion Week 2017?
I was like "OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!"
Do you ever feel nervous before your collection goes on the catwalk?
Absolutely! Totally! I was nervous to death. That was my first time I’ve shown my work in London to people who are all so talented or have been working in the fashion industry for so long. Also the press made me nervous too. I was so worried in case anything went wrong.
Were you inspired by anything in particular when creating your collection?
I was inspired by traditional Taiwanese houses made from bricks plastered in a layer of cement. There are lots of the buildings like that in my hometown. These bricks became the most important element in my collection, not only representing my hometown but also inspiring the colour, texture and patterns in the collection. I created my own patterns and designs to symbolise the bricks and concrete with a computer knitting software.
The collection’s silhouette, over-sized with dropped shoulders and high-necks, was inspired by the boxy, square shapes of the local houses. I also wanted to create a feeling of the burden and heaviness that I have seen in old photos of local farmers and workers in the area. Like the contrast of the soft felted wool against my collections staunch shapes, these buildings have a looming presence, but they continue to stand strong till this day.
It must take a long time to take a collection from conception to catwalk. How long was the creation process?
About half year. I created the fabrics myself for this collection and the computer knitting machine sometimes was just not working! What really took me a lot of time was the hand stitching and felting. Mostly, the collection is joined together like this so they are very delicate, which means I had to fix it very often.
Who was the biggest help when creating the collection?
I'll say everyone who ever helped me for this collection is all equally important! Without them the collection would never have been realised!
How are you feeling about showing your collection at London Fashion Week?
I'm super excited and maybe nervous to death again!
What are you looking forward to most about sharing your collection in September?
I hope more and more people can see my work and I want to meet people who have dedicated themselves to fashion for so long. I'd love to listen to their experiences. Also, I'm happy to work with people who love my designs in any way like photo shoots, etc. But most importantly I’m excited to make new friends in London!
Where do you think showing your collection during LFW will take you in terms of your career?
I'm still figuring out my future and this is a very precious experience for me. I don’t know what I will see yet but I think it will be really wonderful.
Do you have any advice for budding designers aiming to one day be in your shoes?
Believe yourself and keep going!
After speaking with Po-Chieh, it was easy to realise how down to earth he is. His honesty and humility are welcoming and disarming, making you feel as though you're really getting to know the creative behind the collection.
Po-Chieh has wanted to be a fashion designer for his whole life, simultaneously sharing that he does not yet fully know what his own style is. Modest and growing, it is clear that there will be much more to come from this emerging designer. If what we see in the future is as original and inspiring as his latest collection, it's clear to see that he may well be beginning to embark on a successful journey through the industry.
Words by Georgia Gadsby