AUTHOR: Olivia Ouyang
ISSUE: Spring 2013
PHOTO: Courtesy of Monika Chiang
“The fashion designer brings a global sensibility to clothes for the modern woman”
“Monika Chiang always wanted to be a fashion designer. Now, with a successful third collection and partnerships with Shopbop and Intermix, the Chinese American is making her childhood dream a reality.”
Audrey Magazine: How did you get your start in the fashion industry?
Monika Chiang: It was sort of a childhood dream to be a designer, but it just seemed like such an improbable thing. When I was in college, I planned to go into business, but I wasn’t considering the fashion business. I got involved with the fashion industry when I was asked to give some ideas on handbag designs for a brand that was in development. Once I started working with those designers, I quickly realized there were a lot of other things I was interested in designing. With a lot of encouragement from the people around me and by assembling a really talented team to support me, I was able to launch my own collection.
AM: Spring 2013 is your third runway collection. Have you grown as a designer since your debut?
MC: So much! I’m much more confident now, in so many ways. I’m not as afraid to take risks and think outside the box. I’m definitely more
comfortable speaking with the press and to others about my collection. I also think I’ve become more confident about my own personal style.
AM: I read that your spring collection was influenced by a trip to South Africa.
MC: Travel is always an influence for me. It expands the way that you look at the world and exposes you to so many new ideas. Last year was my first trip to South Africa, and it was beyond my expectations. The wine country, in particular, is so vibrant and visually stimulating. I love all the color and the backdrop of the mountains. It was there that I really started thinking about the color palette for the season and some of the themes I wanted to explore.
AM:What is the must-have item from your spring collection?
MC: I would have to say our silk track pants.
AM: You design everything from clothes to shoes to accessories. What is the most difficult part of running a multi-departmental fashion company?
MC: I think it would actually be harder for me if I were just to focus on one category. When I design, I think in terms of a complete vision and how it all works together.
AM: On your website, you describe the Monika Chiang woman as “a fashionforward woman with a deep appreciation of other cultures.” How did your upbringing in various parts of the world influence your personal style?
MC: I feel that I take something away from every place I visit — something that leaves an imprint that I may refer back to at another time. I did spend a lot of time in Sweden during my teen years, so I’m sure I developed some of my style there. But I think it was not until I returned to New York, as an adult, that it all really started to come together.
AM: You have two stores — one located in Los Angeles and one in New York. Do you perceive a difference
between West Coast and East Coast fashion? How do you design for a diverse global market?
MC: There is the obvious difference in climate, and that makes us conscious about what styles we target for Los Angeles versus New York, but I do believe that people are thinking in a more global way about fashion. The L.A. customer may favor some of our more body-con styles, but otherwise, I think there are a lot of similarities.
AM: Who are your role models in the fashion industry?
MC: I am a fan of Alber Elbaz, because when you put on one of his pieces from Lanvin, you feel instantly transformed. That is something I aspire to achieve with my own designs.