The Fashion Show: T Lo Interviews Angel
How did you get started in fashion?
I started a long time ago when I was 16. I was living in Indiana where fashion doesn’t really exist and I had written a letter to my favorite designer at the time, Anna Sui. She was the only person I wanted to work for, so I sent her a letter, she wrote back, a few months later I moved to NY, saw her at her store and she offered me an internship. From there, I started working in the industry. That was way back in high school.
You also worked for Donna Karan and trained at the studios of Viktor & Rolf and Marc Jacobs. That’s quite a fashion background.
Yeah, I’ve been really fortunate in all these different experiences and to work with people that I really admire and working for those who founded their own companies and who are visionaries in their own right. I’ve been really lucky and I learned a lot from them.
Your work has also been featured in ELLE, W, Vogue, and in several international publications. How did you manage to get that so early in your career?
It’s funny because when I started my collection I had been writing a lot of runway reviews for French Vogue online. I knew what the other designers in NY were doing and I knew there was something missing, and that was innovation. I was working with new materials, it was this technology crossover that I saw happening on the fashion side. I think my first collection was very timely. It was inspired by these tech-oriented materials and it happened that at the time Balenciaga was also inspired by technology that season, it was for Spring 2007. It fit with the trends at the time. I think magazines and editorials – the industry really – respond to new ideas, to something with substance and innovation. I did my collection, I put the work out there, and the press just followed it.
You also specialize in fabric development and that’s a very interesting segment of the industry. New technologies, new fabrics can really change the way designers approach their creations.
Yes, that’s true, when I was at Donna Karan a lot what I did was developing fabrics and embroideries, working directly with the textile mill and creating inspiration and design concepts every season with my boss, who was the Senior Creative Director. In a way, we were the R & D department for a major designer, so I brought that back into my own collection.
I get invited to speak at conferences on wearable technology and there I meet people from chemical companies, people who are working with silver fiber or LED fabrics, flexible paper batteries, all these things that have a long R & D lead time, like seven years, and that are really confidential – they want to cross over into clothing and the fashion industry, so I’m kind of like the conduit to doing that.
Moving on to the show and the last episode, do you think there was some confusion regarding the challenge? They basically assigned you a b-girl but ended up judging you based on hip-hop style.
Yes, there was some confusion and I think a lot of the confusion was…I feel like the judges, I mean aside from Kelly, I think the judges didn’t know what a b-girl was, so they couldn’t really judge me on that look. I feel like a b-girl is a very specific niche in hip-hop culture. I wouldn’t say it’s synonymous with hip-hop and for those to judge me based on hip-hop was a bit misleading. Very misleading, actually.
Most of our readers felt that Kelly was very rude to you. We have to say that it was a little awkward to watch you having to apologize to her.
I was very surprised by her remarks. On TV, she was extremely harsh and some people were like, “you shouldn’t have apologized at all.” Yeah, it was weird because she was insulted and I didn’t understand why. It was supposed to be inspired by that particular clique, not to create a look for an actual b-girl.
I think in this episode the judges were particularly harsh, not just at me, but at everyone in general. The level of cattiness jumped three levels amongst the contestants as well. They weren’t criticizing me based on my design skills or my design work. I couldn’t really have a strong reaction to that. “You don’t know something.” How can I be mad about that?
And that’s particularly tough when the designers can’t really prep or do any type of research like a designer would do in a normal situation.
Yes, there is such a limited time frame and so much of that time is spent actually sewing the clothes and I think, as a designer, for me finding inspiration and doing all the design research and fabric development is the most difficult part of designing a collection. Every time I do an interview with someone, they’re always asking me “What are you inspired by?” “Who are you thinking about?” I travel to all these different countries and read all these books just to get the visual materials to create an inspiration. In this competition, we weren’t allowed to do that, you don’t have the full picture of what makes a design a design. You don’t have the substance. You don’t have the reason for fashion to exist.
It seemed that you were always running out of time, finishing the garments at the last minute. Was time management an issue?
Obviously time management was an issue, but at the same time, if anyone else was given that amount of time, they would’ve had half of a garment. For me, to even be able to create a full look in that amount of time it really amazed me. I didn’t know that I could do it, I didn’t know I had the skills to do it. The last time I sewed my own jacket, it was like…god, when I was in school. Now I work with professional sample makers who will spend a week putting that together. While I was running out of time on the show, in fashion, we’re always sewing buttons on until right before the fashion show. Maybe viewers are surprised by that, but in the real world of fashion that’s exactly how everyone works.
We were really impressed with your dress-shirt dress.
Yes, that was really cool. I was able to be innovative and yet still be appealing to a public audience. Those two don’t always align. For me that was a great achievement as a designer.
You mentioned in one of your interviews that women have changed their roles, and changed their lifestyle but the structure of their clothes has remained the same. What did you mean by that?
I designed my collection after 9/11 and after the East Coast blackout and there was a point, sort of a realization, like a light bulb went off, that I felt that clothes didn’t match my emotional experiences at the time. They were supposed to be protective, comfortable. I just felt really vulnerable in my clothes, and when I was at Donna Karan, we would buy vintage garments as an inspiration for the whole design team and the design process. I felt that we should not be designing something based off a WWII bomber jacket, otherwise, we’re designing for that life style from way back then when we should be designing for our lives today. Having seen how the design process works in many different fashion houses, often times they were being inspired by the past, and I wanted to move fashion forward and that’s what I meant.
Tells us a little bit about your collection and your clientele.
My clientele is fashion-driven women, very self-aware, they travel a lot. They’re very chic, but they also need clothes that don’t wrinkle a lot, that are lightweight and low-maintenance but still stunning. I try to work with fabrics that don’t wrinkle a lot, don’t require a lot of dry-cleaning, that won’t weigh a suitcase down. And multifunctional, they can be worn two, three different ways and are always extremely stylish.
Thank you, Angel, and good luck to you.
Some of Angel Chang‘s designs from previous collections:
[Photos: BravoTV.com/Dan Lecca/Angelchang.com]