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China Designers You Need to Know: Chen Peng

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China Designers is a biweekly series that showcases the wide spectrum of creativity in Chinese fashion design. From small designers to big brands, these names are changing the connotations of “Made in China,” one collection at a time. Write to us if you have a suggestion or submission.

In the alternate universe birthed by Chinese designer Chen Peng, there is no such thing as “size.” There are only very chic, very somber astronauts swathed in immense balloons of shiny fabric and mazes of buckles, eyes hidden by their swollen hoods.

Chen Peng models backstage

Using proportion as a tool for shock value, Chen confronts traditional concepts of size and gender in high fashion, joining a movement that has long been calling for inclusion in the industry.

Launched in 2015, the brand has received international acclaim for its deviant take on oversized outerwear, and is now stocked internationally in over 70 boutiques, retailers and department stores. But perhaps the most notable exposure is CHENPENG’s endorsements from celebrities such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Bella Hadid, who have all been snapped wearing the labels’ iconic oversized coats.

It’s the outrageous proportions of these down coats — plus the fact that they’re all “one-size” — that form the creative backbone of CHENPENG. Broaching the topic with his typical frankness, Peng said in a 2018 interview with China fashion publication Temper Magazine that “a fat friend who was more obese” originally inspired his frustration with sizing in fashion. Peng saw that his friend was unable to find clothing that was both fashionable and fitted, and quickly grew annoyed by the industry’s inadequacy in providing high-fashion styles and silhouettes across a range of sizes.

These coats — devoid of both gender and body type — are Peng’s solution.

“I want to bring the public a new way of aesthetics and break the current definition of ‘size,’” he said in 2018. “I don’t think fashion should be limited by [that].”

It’s easy to spot Peng’s dispassion for convention in his designs. His most iconic down jackets marry excess and pared-down utility. While there is definitely whimsy in the scale of inflation, Peng’s choice of textiles is first and foremost functional. Each coat is made with advanced goose down technology, and experiments with playful color pairings to cater to a variety of moods and personalities. The resulting garments seem like the high-fashion fantasies of a very glamorous, chrome world, millions of lightyears away.

Peng’s most recent collection for AW19 is named “HIMA LAYA,” after the ancient Sanskrit words for “home of snow.” The collection, a collaboration with Chinese sports giant Li-Ning, intends to capture the essence of life atop the famous snowy peaks of the same name.

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Vibrant, color-blocked patterns on materials like faux fur, composite TPU and wool knit are inspired by the natural surroundings of the snow-capped region and those who inhabit it.

The AW19 collection also embodies functionality through its durability — Peng used reconstructed polyester materials from China’s Textile Library to create garments with varied moisture permeability and water resistance.

Watching the CHENPENG AW19 runway exhibition is like gazing into a portal to a wintry world where everybody is twice their size, really cold, and unbearably fashionable. Stony-faced models stalk down the stage in decadent faux furs and vibrant pigments — some draped in inflated scarves with the ends shaped like the giant palms of some omnipotent spirit.

So where does Peng get his otherworldly inspiration from?  Although the designer formally entered the fashion world in London — he received his MA in Menswear Fashion Design Technology at the London College of Fashion — his vision for CHENPENG lives in China.

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Peng belongs to the growing pool of young Chinese who go abroad to study, and ultimately diffuse a blend of international and homegrown flavor into the fashion stratosphere.

AW19 in particular speaks to Peng’s Chinese roots. The collection centers around the theme “Transformation of Sky Eyes,” which according to the designer combines inspiration from the sky, the stars and the ancient Chinese philosophy of “round sky, square ground” to create a fusion of dreamy, interwoven colors and textures.

CHENPENG deviates so far from conventional fashion that it arguably appeals to almost everyone — one size, for all. The label offers a stylish solution for anyone who finds themselves alienated by mainstream fashion.

Follow CHENPENG on Instagram.

All images courtesy CHENPENG

Monisha Pillai
    Monisha is a senior at NYU studying media theory, Chinese culture and Mandarin. You can probably find her ordering boba five times a day or crying over Korean boy bands.