Couture fashion isn’t a common thread in New Brunswick but emerging designer Echo Chen is forging a new lane with her collection that is inspired by the royal family’s palace in Beijing, China, called the Forbidden City.
“The whole process took almost a year,” Chen said.
Chen started off as an economics student in China and transferred to the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design and went on to win the 2020 NBCCD Acquisition Award.
Her six-piece collection is designed in three sets to represent the different areas of society in China.
“There is a youth set and a there’s a working professional set and here we see the elite classes or the wealthy in China,” said Karen Ruet, NBCCD gallery coordinator.
“When I start working on the real fabric, the whole piece could be over 100 hours,” Chen said.
The collection is a far cry from fast fashion that has become popular on social media. It is a historically based modernization of Chinese imagery and the hand-sewn garments are described as investment pieces that can be passed down to future generations.
“Her mastery of the material here is amazing. This is satin and it is tricky to work with,” said Tracy Austin, fashion design coordinating instructor at the NBCCD.
The mask says forbidden and it symbolizes people not having free speech and her concerns about the lack of democracy and the air pollution in China.
“I love that country and so I hope it gets better and I hope the people living there are happy,” Chen said.
“I think Echo is incredibly brave to speak out about this,” Ruet said.
Chen encourages anyone with a flair for fashion to enroll at the college.
“You get that one-on-one experience that you’re not going to get at other places because of the large numbers. This is not a lecture school,” Austin said. Instead, she said the college is a school where “we’re going to show you how to do it, we’re going to walk you through it,” she said.
One piece from Chen’s line will remain on permanent display at the school to inspire future artists attending the college.