Tan Discusses Chinese-Inspired Designs & Future Plans
Taiwanese-born, New York-based designer Peggy Tan recently unveiled her new S/S 2012 collection, the second for her clothing line Mandarin & General. Heavy on Chinese elements like Cheongsam (Qipao) design and silk, for Mandarin & General Tan thoughtfully sources, reconsiders and reinvents constructional tradition and detail, ultimately reworking Chinese-inspired garments into fresh and meaningful designs for today. Recently, members of the Jing Daily team caught up with Peggy Tan at the United States of Rendez-Vous, a trade show in New York featuring over 90 international brands and designers, to discuss her Chinese-inspired designs, marketing strategies, and future plans.
Jing Daily (JD): Can you tell us a bit about Mandarin & General and your designs?
Peggy Tan (PT): Mandarin & General is a conceptual project focusing on creating a contemporary design brand using Chinese culture as a foundation and design tool.
JD: What made you want to become a designer?
PT: I was always interested in art and design growing up. I thought I’d become an artist someday, but surprisingly I became a fashion designer instead.
JD: When did you launch your brand?
PT: I’ve been working on the concept of Mandarin & General for some time now, but I finally launched in 2010 and kicked off my first capsule collection in the spring of 2011.
JD: How have you integrated Chinese elements into your designs?
PT: I don’t really think about how to integrate Chinese elements into my designs since I’m already working with Chinese garments and their general frameworks. I deconstruct them and re-consider their proportions and functions. The qipao is a type of garment I enjoy playing with, but my inspiration for the Spring/Summer 2012 collection also comes from sources like “Metropolis,” the 1927 film by Fritz Lang, and various architectural patterns.
JD: In terms of getting the word out about your products, what’s been your most successful marketing tool so far?
PT: A good photo shoot is so important in terms of the presentation of a collection. It sums up the attitude and mood you are trying to convey. Word of mouth via people I know has been really helpful too. Since most of my friends are in the creative industries, they really reach my target customers. And of course, social media is always a great tool.
JD: What kinds of challenges have you come across in terms of promoting your products?
PT: I debate about whether to include the brand’s name in Chinese or not.
JD: Who are your target customers in the U.S.?
PT: My customers are women in their 20s and 30s who have a great sense of style, are confident, and have acquired taste in culture.
JD: How do you compete with bigger Chinese-inspired brands here in the U.S., such as Shanghai Tang or Blanc de Chine?
PT: I don’t think we’re competing with each other, because every brand has its own distinct style and market. Shanghai Tang uses a lot of fun colors and rich Chinese motifs, while Blanc de Chine has a sort of Zen-like serenity. And Mandarin & General embodies casual chic and a cool downtown attitude.
JD: Do you have any plan to expand your business to new markets like the Greater China region? In your eyes, what are the most striking differences between the U.S. and the Chinese markets?
PT: I do plan to expand Mandarin & General internationally. I don’t think there are major differences between the U.S. and the Chinese markets in terms of reaction towards my collection, but Chinese people might be able to relate to my designs on a more personal level.
JD: Where can people find your products?
PT: Currently it is available exclusively on Mandarin & General’s website, and we also ship internationally. The S/S 2012 collection got a good response at Rendez-Vous NYC from collection scouts from places like South Korea, and stores overseas like Hunting and Collecting in Belgium and Blonde Venus in Australia.
JD: In the fashion world, who are some of your favorite designers?
PT: I admire the designs by Maison Martin Margiela. They are just always able to come up with very clever designs! I also like the people from a Beijing boutique called Dong Liang (Jing Daily Q&A), they have very unique point of view and integrity towards the design and community. That’s definitely a store I’d love to have the opportunity to work with.