Madame Wang, Founder & Designer Of Shiatzy Chen, Talks Past, Present And Future
Somewhere in the mountainous region of Taiwan, a young woman is getting married, and she would be presented with a jade bangle by her mother to mark the life-changing union. The jewellery which is also a spiritual object in Taiwanese culture is a token that serves as a reminder of home, which will then be placed in a red envelope and kept in the bride’s new home.
Drawing inspiration from this longstanding tradition, Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia, also known as Madame Wang, decided to utilise the beautiful jewellery by cutting it and then using the crystal stone as a handle for her handcrafted bags.
Since each stone is cut and shaped by hand and the bag is meticulously embroidered, each Shiatzy Chen bag is unique and considered a collectible. “When I started Shiatzy Chen in the late ’70s, there were so many concepts of fashion which I could adopt from, but instead of incorporating only Western styles, I built my brand using my own culture,” said the 69-year-old, who was born in Changhua, Taiwan.
She added: “Every piece of the collection represents a story borrowed from different eras and dynasties.” It’s in the input of such details as jade and mandarin collar in her extravagant dresses and ready-to-wear range that distinguishes it as a Shiatzy Chen piece. Some accents that differentiate the label from common Chinese elements are the inclusion of floral French lace, diamond belts and intricate Western cutting.
“The traditional Chinese cutting in our cheongsam or qipao is straightforward and flat, hence the choice of opting for the Western version, which can be more three-dimensional and silhouetted— like a second layer of skin,” Wang elaborated.
Wang even credited the entertainment industry as being a proponent of the growing global fanfare for Chinese ready-to-wear and high fashion. “Thanks to movie franchises such as Crazy Rich Asians, Chinese fashion has become more mainstream. Each one of us has benefited from the storytelling of our legacy and history, and I’m glad.”
A 2020 resolution that the founder hoped to accomplish is opening more Shiatzy Chen outlets and ateliers around the world to accommodate their versatile and diverse international clientele.
As a new decade begins, the past 10 years for Shiatzy Chen has recorded many firsts—the label’s debut at Paris Fashion Week in 2009, becoming an official member of the French Fashion Federation and launching Cha Cha Thé Ltd, a tea and lifestyle brand inspired by Chinese history and aesthetics. If the last few years are anything to go by, we wait with bated breath to see what Shiatzy Chen comes up with next.