Aliens and politics inspired Syna Chen’s graduate collection

Extraterrestrials on the campaign trail.

Once again, Fashion Journal is the supporting partner of Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival’s National Graduate Showcase.

The 12 finalists for 2020 have been announced, and they’ve given us an insight into the process behind the collections they’ll be showing.

Next up: Syna Chen and her graduate collection Operation Europa.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I recently completed my Master of Fashion (Design) at RMIT, I’m a Chinese-born designer and I see fashion as a cultural translator and clothing as a universal language. I believe that clothing can communicate with any culture, even extraterrestrial and alien cultures.

Tell us about your collection.

My graduate collection is about political fashion for alien visitors, creating inflatable clothing for a future political utopia. The collection takes place on Europa, bringing together inflatable technology in virtual (or imaginary) alien and human cultures. The collection shows my interest in breaking the boundaries between traditional fashion design and other fields and constantly challenging the possibilities of fashion design.

When did you know you wanted to get into fashion design?

I decided to be a fashion designer when I was very young. I was like six years old, and I didn’t even know what a fashion designer was, I just thought it sounded really cool. I’m glad my dream hasn’t changed and I believe I will keep working hard for it.

How do you describe your design style?

Exaggerated, eccentric, creepy, or confusing. I see the garment as the carrier, what I really want to express is the idea behind the fashion design. I think all art forms are similar, fashion design is only one of them. More important is the message behind the work that the designer is trying to express.

What were the major points of inspiration for your graduate collection?

My graduation collection is a hypothesis about the future, and I tried to put two unrelated things together: aliens and politics. Firstly, the reason I chose Aliens. I think there are a lot of people like me who have begun to doubt how long the Earth can last, [and] scientists have begun to look for other planets for the possibility of human survival. This gives humans a possibility: the hope to escape the Earth.

The second is politics. I wouldn’t say that politics on Earth is bad or good right now, but think about what will happen to the political formation of mankind in outer space? If there really are aliens, how do we get along with them? You don’t have to think about its plausibility, because it’s completely fictional, but it’s likely to happen in the future. You can keep fantasising about it because there is no right answer. I’ve always believed that extraterrestrials exist, so how do we communicate with them?

How does your version of alien fashion differ from human fashion?

Alien fashion is completely fictional and based on imagination. In outer space, everything that doesn’t make sense makes sense. I’m trying to break the mould of fashion, and put fashion into outer space, in a totally different environment than Earth.

I design for alien leaders. Fashion is not for everyone, not even for humanity. And political fashion is not only a symbol of power and status but also a language without words to communicate with different cultures.

What drew you to inflatable clothing?

I tried to find an element which could give the feeling that I am not on Earth! In the weightless outer space environment, inflatable technology could well simulate the object floating. When you put on the inflatable clothes, you can feel the pressure of the garments on you, like someone hugging you.

It’s an interesting experience, I don’t know if it’s really gonna happen in outer space, but I’m sure it’s something you’ve never experienced when you get up and get dressed.

Tell us about the experience of putting together your graduate collection.

I developed my graduation project through the development of printing, fabric modification and inflatable experiments. First I needed to do a lot of research on the history of political fashion to understand the details of politicians’ clothing on Earth, which became the foundation of my design development.

Then when fabric testing, [I] tested a lot of fabric densities, because if I wanted to achieve the inflatable effect, I had to find an airtight fabric. Finally, through the continuous testing of the inflation device, observed the change of silhouette during the inflation process, and then finally determined the design.

What part does sustainability play in your design practice?

Sustainability has always been a concern in the fashion world. My collection also imagines the possibility of sustainable development in outer space in the future. NASA has invented an inflatable habitat for humans on the moon. The main aim now is to provide a workplace for astronauts. This gives me a theoretical basis for my hypothesis. I imagine that in the future in space, everything will be made in inflatable material. Discarded clothing can be used as a material for other objects.

What’s next for you?

I will give myself a year to sort out the new knowledge I gained in the course of my graduate studies. I will continue to learn, and this will be an endless journey in my life. I hope to work with more creative people in the future and come up with different ideas.

Find more of Syna’s work here.

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