WHAT'S YOUR PROPOSITION | Lan Chen
Winning industry internships and portfolio reviews, Lan Chen’s final collection 'From Hugs' was also highlighted as ‘one to watch’ on the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week in London.
We believe that high-quality education for life in contemporary arts practice is the creative catalyst for personal, professional and cultural transformation, and our manifesto includes ten propositions, written by our Principal, Professor Andrew Brewerton, that added to the themes of CREATIVE LEARNING and SOCIAL JUSTICE, define our strategic plans for the future. For our new campaign, we invited thirteen current students, recent graduates and alumni to contribute their own propositions.
BA (Hons) Fashion graduate Lan moved to the UK from China when she was twelve years old, living in small towns and big cities from Scotland to Cornwall, before settling in Plymouth to start her studies. We caught up with her to find out more about her practice and her proposition, 'Embrace It'.
Tell us a bit about yourself...
I emigrated to the UK when I was younger, the first place I lived in was Scotland which is where I learned how to speak English. We moved around a lot because of my families business, starting in Scotland then Peterborough, Cumbria, Cornwall and now Plymouth.
I love Scotland, we lived in a really small town but I loved it. I love Plymouth too. I also really liked Cornwall, I’ve enjoyed living in all the different corners of the UK.
Tell us about your practice.
When I start a project I always begin with thorough research before starting the design. We, of course, make the physical garments, but we also have to consider the business side of the fashion industry as well.
We have to think about the photoshoots and fashion films as well as designing and making the garments. It’s a lot to do, especially when people think it’s just about designing a garment and they perhaps forget about the marketing and business side of fashion.
What do you specialise in?
I like researching, when I started the programme I thought I’d just like the practical side of the course. But I like to know the story behind the garment, its history and legacy.
But I think I specialise in making. When I’m making something I’m often inspired to make more garments or an entirely new collection.
Did you feel supported with exploring out of your comfort zone?
Yes! My lecturers always said ‘don’t worry if you make mistakes because you improve through your mistakes’.
From the start, I hated drawing. My drawing skills were very unreliable - sometimes good, sometimes bad - but now I’m comfortable in the style that I’ve developed for myself by exploring my limits. I feel more confident in the areas that I initially avoided when I wasn’t sure in my abilities.
Tell us about your graduate collection...
My project is about hugs, it’s inspired by the relationship between me and my great-grandma, it’s really personal to me.
Hugs encourage people; when you don’t feel confident doing something, once someone hugs you it makes you feel braver. A physical embrace and show of support makes you want to face the issue and tackle your worries.
Some days I worried that I couldn’t complete my collection, that it was all too much for me. When I felt low, I spoke to my friend and she gave me a hug and encouraged me to keep going. I’m so glad she did, it’s some of my best work and was selected for the Best of Gala Show catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week.
Do you remember when you first visited the college?
Yes, when I came for an interview the staff were so nice, they showed me the facilities and the studio spaces really caught my eye. The campus is so central, which is great as I can do my research in the shops in the city centre. I’m so happy with my decision to study here, the people and facilities are great, I feel very lucky.
I’m motivated by the community of students. The relationship between the different departments is very interesting, we collaborated with film students in my final year to produce fashion videos for our collections. The interdisciplinary working opens up a lot of opportunities.
Did you feel connected to industry?
During my time studying we had the opportunity to enter a lot of competitions with industry leaders, I even won a brief set by Denza and Hiut Denim, where I won portfolio reviews and an internship. These opportunities are going to be really helpful, it’s going to help me determine the direction of my career.
What piece of advice would you give to new students?
Prioritise your strengths, don’t try to be the best at everything. Find your specialism and focus on it. And buy a watch, time management is really important!
What’s next for you?
I’m going to back to China for a few weeks to visit the production factories and workshops to see how it all works. We studied an introduction to this side of fashion and I’d like to see it for myself to understand it further.
While travelling I’ll be inspired to design, from seeing different cultures. I’ll keep my skills sharp, and use the time to figure out exactly what I want to do and who I want to be. You can’t learn everything on your degree, so you need to be prepared to keep learning as you progress with your career.