Contributing Monkie Julia Ocean
Published on June 6, 2010
The world of green fashion designers is still a pretty small one. It’s almost shockingly small, after 30 years of pushing this green fashion rock up this hill. What went wrong? By now I would have thought there would be millions of little Paris Hiltons demanding closets full of organic fairtrade clothing. But, that fantasy world just hasn’t materialized yet. No, the world is still full of twiggy women with a lust for the old faithfuls. Dead this, dead that and oh yes, lots and lots of chemically grown cotton please.
If we have any chance of turning the beastly giant fashion vessel around, it truly lies in the hands of the designers we are featuring here on G Living. These brave designers, with big hearts, wild imaginations and un-ending courage. Designs such as Meiling Chen, who is our feature designer of the week.
Meiling Chen, calls herself the Fearless Dreamer. And one look at her fashion collection, you can understand why. Meiling caught the fashion bug from watching her father transform traditional suits and shirts into the latest contemporary styles. This re-imagining what already existed, must have had some impact on her own green fashion ideas. Her fashion creativity has gotten her noticed by some of the big names of mainstream fashion, such as Italian Vogue, Bazaar, and others.
We caught up with Meiling via email and she was nice enough to answer a few of our questions.
Julia: How did you choose to become a designer and how did you start your career? Why G/Fashion?
Meiling: I love to draw since I was little and had my heart set in the creative field since then. My schooling has always been in the fine arts, sculpture, visual communication design (graphic design) and fashion design. I walk into the path naturally. Also, my father used to be a tailor, I was growing up immersed in the surrounding. I live in a green lifestyle and I love nature.
Photographer: Peggy Yee
Julia: What was your experience in the fashion industry before forming your own company?
Meiling: Upon graduation from the School of Visual Arts, I worked for Nautica International NY head quarter where I observed first-hand the workings of the industry. I also freelance for a few design companies in the industry doing branding design, trend development and helping with fashion shows.
Julia: Do you think the green fashion industry will ever be more than a niche player in the fashion industry as a whole?
Meiling: With the increasing information, awareness, availabilities and interests; I believe it is only a matter of time. If we can provide beautiful clothes and reduce the harmful things from the environment at the same time. I am positive the day will come.
Julia: Who are your favorite designers and why?
Meiling: There are many designers creating inspiring work, new and old, famous and unknown. Junya Watanabe to Vionnet, Charles James..each designer inspires me differently.
Julia: What part of going into green fashion has been the most challenging? Has anything gone just completely wrong? What would you change if you could?
Meiling: I feel very comfortable and right about this path, the only thing is challenging is the availability of materials/fabrics and textiles. It is not as abundance/accessible as conventional ones. Yet it enables me to be more creative to make good design work.
I am learning and doing it at the same time. I can not say anything has gone wrong. I am only doing my best and so far so good.
Julia: How do you think the state of the economy will effect the green movement and green sales in general?
Meiling: The tough economy definitely has slowed things down, at the same time it is a good filter for good quality work to continuing exist and grow. It weeds out the unfaithful ones. At the same time, I am happy with more companies doing business with more considerations and reevaluate their practice with care. It is a great time for green work to grow.
Julia: What are other green designers or companies doing wrong? What do you think about green washing or major companies calling almost any effort they make, green?
Meiling: With the promising opportunities, there are some companies become green for the wrong reason or not knowing the principals. They are in the field just for money or popularity, not from the heart and beliefs.
I think companies need to provide more information to the public. I hope there will be more filtering systems or organizations to evaluate and help with the needs.
Photographer: Quinn Batson
Julia: How import are the fabrics and what types of fabrics or materials are you interested in?
Meiling: Fabrics are one of the essential elements that decide the outcome of the garment. I would like to find the fabrics/materials that are organic, low-impact and certainly environmental friendly. I also think reuse the materials that are exist already from the past and give it a new live is very helpful.
Julia: How important is the price point for you?
Meiling: I strive to create good work, meaning to provide customers with quality and value honestly. Fair-trade is very important for me. I hope to create unique pieces as well as affordable clothes/products to provide different needs/price points.
Julia: What type of person is your customer, what are they looking for?
Meiling: The range of my customers is wide, from the young, professionals to the sophisticated ones. They are looking for clothes that are comfortable to be in yet with interesting flavors that they can also wear for a lovely night out.
Julia: How “G” or green is your personal life?
Meiling: I try to eat green organic food whenever is possible. I strive to live in harmony with nature physically and spiritually. I also learning/practice Tai-Chi and Yoga. I treat people with respect and graceful with all the things/people in my life.
Julia: A lot of people within the green movement are starting to say, the best way to go green, is just to be a vegan. Nothing else you really do in your life makes any real impact on the planet. You may feel better if you own an organic shirt, but the impact of that shirt isn’t even measurable.
What are your thoughts about the impact of your diet on the planet?
Meiling: I believe if all of us take a part with whatever we can do the best for the environment, regardless the degree. Any little things and thoughts can help. Step by step, together we are getting there.
Julia: The world can be a bit gloomy at time, with all the wars, hunger, global warming and just the struggles of daily life. What is the one thing you can count on to keep you feeling good, enabling enjoy your life?
Meiling: The love I receive from people makes my heart smile. The sweet things I see on streets make me happy. I enjoy meeting people, good conversations, discover new things and places, appreciation good creative work and performances. I hope to do more to contribute with what I can do the best and to reach more people in some ways.
Julia: Almost every interview I have with a fashion designer, I ask them about traveling and the places they love most in the world. I just think it’s a natural question for the people who make a living dressing the rest of us up. You would have to some how know what people living all over the globe might want to wear.
Are you a big traveler or do you prefer to be a arm chair traveling, using the remote control on your TV to surf the world via you television?
Meiling: Traveling is one of the things I love the most. I enjoy each place I visit and I like Europe very much at the moment. Yet I have not traveled enough to decide a favorite place, city. I hope to visit India, Africa, Egypt, Tibet, Russia..very soon..I might have a better idea afterwards.
I have traveled mainly in Asia, places like, Taiwan, China (Shang Hai, Beijing, Hong Kong), Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagano), the Philippines, Europe (France, UK, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Check), USA (NY, DC, MA, CA, South West, PA, TX, ML), Canada and Mexico. The feeling of being a visitor dissolved at the moment when I receive kindness from strangers.