How to Collaborate? Just Ask Feng Chen Wang

London-based Chinese designer Feng Chen Wang might have debuted at New York Fashion Week back in 2016, but my personal introduction was through her first Converse collaboration in 2019. The almost post-contemporary aesthetic of those Chuck 70s looked inherently Chinese with their deconstructed technicality, instantly upgrading an American classic into a statement piece. 

Not to my surprise, five more Feng Chen Wang x Converse collaborations followed, with the designer looking likely to take on the now 13-year Converse run at Comme des Garçons. Becoming known in fashion as a professional collaborator, Wang has since brought her imprint to Levi’s, Nike Lab, Air Jordan, Ugg, the Beijing Olympics, and most recently, the Italian vehicle manufacturer Piaggio.

Feng Chen Wang reintroduces her 2-in-1 Chuck 70 with a unique leather design that mirrors cracked concrete. Photo: Converse x Feng Chen Wang

Customizing Piaggio’s first-ever e-scooter with a watercolor print inspired by Chinese mythology, with a streetwear capsule to match, Wang has stayed true to her signature sustainability-focus, while simultaneously deepening Piaggio’s connection to the Chinese market. 

As head of the luxury division at Gentlemen Marketing Agency (GMA), Anaïs Bournonville stated that Chinese consumers are among the largest purchasers of e-scooters and e-bikes in the world, so Wang’s first-ever vehicle collaboration makes a lot of sense. “While international brands have trouble engaging with Chinese consumers on the topic of sustainability, Piaggio is using the artistic approach to share its values,” commented Bournonville. 

Whether it’s for Piaggio, UGG, or Air Jordan, Wang has become somewhat of a creative connector between the East and the West for many global names. And it’s a reputation that the designer is happy to embrace, as it’s the way many of her now-loyal consumers have found her.

To gain more of an understanding into how Wang has shot to success through an ongoing flow of mainstream collaborations, Jing Collabs & Drops spoke to the designer.  

Jing Collabs & Drops: Was it always a goal of yours to collaborate with so many brands?

Feng Chen Wang: “I’ve never thought of myself as solely a fashion designer, and I think in the future that Feng Chen Wang won’t just be a clothing brand, too. That’s one of the reasons why I collaborate with so many interesting and different brands, including some which are more lifestyle. In my design philosophy, design should be diversified and should be a part of art.”

How did you find designing a vehicle for Piaggio?  

“Of course, because designing a motor vehicle is different from designing clothes. For example, safety performance and electronic performance are factors to be considered, so we needed to work with Piaggio’s engineers and professionals to understand these aspects to meet these particular standards. This part of the project was very exciting. When a project has strict limitations, it becomes more challenging, but I’m always keen to learn through this design process. Personally, I love the overall design, color matching, and lines of this innovative electric motor bike.”

The e-scooter by Piaggio and Feng Chen Wang takes design inspiration from Chinese mythology. Photo: Feng Chen Wang x Piaggio

What would be a reason for turning down a collaboration?

“If a collaboration isn’t able to give me freedom to truly innovate, I would turn it down. The same is true if the collaboration is too rushed, because we need enough time and space to collect inspiration, develop ideas, and create something unique and exciting. If we can’t do that, it will have no value to either us or the other brand. Collaborations need to be meaningful to both sides, and have the potential to subvert previous works.”

Did the Beijing Olympics collaboration directly increase your sales in China?

“Yes, but not only did it increase our sales, but the massive Beijing Winter Olympics platform also introduced Feng Chen Wang to a much wider and larger audience group. In the past, we may have been more active and visible in the fashion field, and that’s where our audience has previously come from. But since the Beijing Winter Olympics collaboration, more people from different fields have paid attention to us, which grows our brand awareness.”

Feng Chen Wang designed outfits for the Olympic flag bearers at the Beijing Winter Olympics. Photo: Feng Chen Wang Studio’s Weibo

What have you learnt about yourself as a designer through collaborating?

“I realize that if I want to be a better designer, I need to balance the embodiment of creativity and business in design — and balance my inner world and the outer world. Collaboration is an important bridge to balance all these, because successful cooperation requires two brands to find balance in different cultural backgrounds, different experiences, and different concepts. I’m a designer, but not just a fashion designer, and I’m looking forward to working on more diversified collaborations to extend our brand.”

How do you feel about the fact that a lot of people only know you through your collaborations? 

“I think it’s a great thing that people have discovered us that way, since it’s still my design. Plus, most of our collaboration partners are well-known, strong and international, so I can’t see any disadvantage in this happening. More people get to know Feng Chen Wang. I love this result, and we are all proud of it.”

What’s the key to a successful collaboration?

“I am very selective when entering into a partnership. Each brand has its own DNA and story, and I deeply understand and respect this. Most of the brands that we connect with will be from different countries, with different DNA, cultures, and languages. For me, the most important thing about any collaboration is to combine each other’s DNA and stimulate cross-cultural exchanges.”

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Collabs and Drops, Creatives, Global