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Taking a glimpse of Vivian Chan's elegant womenswear collections—clearly designed with chic, creative, and totally together buyers in mind—you might be surprised at the unexpected source of her inspiration.
The Cal State Long Beach grad, who also studied abroad in Paris and London, gets the influence for her decidedly feminine garments from women in careers not typically associated with high fashion. In past seasons, she's followed florists and baristas (like, actually followed—insanely early morning flower mart shopping included) and her current Spring 2016 line borrowed elements from the daily life of painters, whether it be the subtle brushstroke texture of a fabric or the addition of smock-like details, or a more literal interpretation through the use of a vivid watercolor print.
Chan has always found the beauty and purpose of the little things when it comes to her work. Even as an intern for mega labels like The Row or Rodarte, she was grateful to contribute to the whole of a collection—even if that often meant running errands or sorting yarn. But now with a fully functioning studio in El Monte (in-house sewers and sample makers included), she's come a long way. You can find her best-selling Rosie skort (featured here in our NYE outfit roundup) and more at ultra cool Arts District boutique Alchemy Works and West Hollywood's chic shop Kin Los Angeles, and her clothes have popped up in publications including Vanity Fair, Who What Wear, and InStyle.
We recently got to tour Chan's stunning El Monte studio and find out more about the designer's working-woman inspiration, the most important lessons she learned abroad, and who's opinion she values above all others.
How did studying abroad influence your designs?
I studied in Paris and London; Paris for a 2-week program and London for a whole semester. I can honestly say that going abroad was one of the best and most influential times of my life. Both have truly played a big part in shaping who I am as a person and a designer. It was through this experience that I found my voice as a designer. It was in Paris where I developed the aesthetic of attention to detail—minimal in design, maximized in detail. London was where I learned to embrace my creativity. I was challenged to lean into discomfort and explore the unfamiliar in terms of my skills and passions. I was able to recognize my strengths and weaknesses as a designer, which was what allowed me to be bold in my ideas and design as a form of expression.
Your collections are all based on occupations that might otherwise seem no-so-glamorous. Why is that important to you?
There is already enough glamour in this industry. Every woman matters and deserves to be celebrated for what they do. I am continually inspired by the women around me and have so much to learn from every single one of them! My purpose as a designer is to design garments that can allow a woman to celebrate her beauty and embrace her femininity, encouraging women to be comfortable in their own skin. Garments have the power to influence, so it's important to me that we're intentional with every stitch, every design, and every collection. I want these women to feel celebrated and know that their hard work is not going unnoticed, that they matter and are an inspiration to me as well as those around them.
You showed us sneak peeks of collections as far in the future as Fall 2016! What's your secret to being so incredibly productive?
There is no secret; I have my incredible team at VC to thank for that. I am thankful everyday for their hard work and dedication. Without them, none of this would be possible. For the longest time productivity was a big struggle for me. It felt like we were always playing catch-up and being pressed for time. Now, we do what we can to keep each other accountable in meeting all deadlines. Productivity definitely takes team work and I am truly blessed to have a strong team like this by my side. After 2 years, I am happy to say that we have finally caught up! We are very proud to be back on track.
What are some advantages of having your studio in El Monte, versus in the Fashion District?
I get to be in my own world, away from the hustle and bustle of the industry. My studio has definitely become my happy place, an atmosphere where I can freely create and dream. It's funny, from the exterior and surroundings of the building, you would never expect to walk into a studio like ours. I instantly fell in love with this space for the high ceiling, open space, and natural light. It's also a lot more space for less money, and there's always parking!
You're originally from Taiwan. What do you miss about the country and do you think you bring any of that influence into the collections?
I miss my family, the culture, and the amazing food. There is something authentic/genuine about Taiwan's culture and people that always reminds me to never forget my roots and where I came from.
Your mom was a big influence on you becoming a designer. What does she think about your line?
She is definitely a proud mama! I can always count on her to be bluntly honest with me, so I love asking for her opinion and getting her feedback. Truth hurts sometimes, but when it's from mom you know its out of love. Ha! She will always be my biggest muse and inspiration.
If you weren't a designer what else would you be?
I would be a store owner/buyer. Partner with my mom to open our own boutique of curated designers from all over the world.