A myriad of vibrant handmade flowers, beads, shells, conches, pearls and sequins intricately interspersed with large prints, created in promise of giving neither the eye nor the ear rest. Rustling sounds of varied textures brushing against one another, chiming of bells and jingles caused by the movement of the peculiar materials incorporated in her creations are all part of Cheng Cheng’s visual and auditory extravaganzas.
“I hope to convey happiness through sound” she says with a beaming smile lighting up my screen during our video call one morning.
I see Cheng Cheng holding up her phone to show me inspiring photos from her time in XunPu, a small fishing village in China. Among these photos is one of herself in a hard-to-miss, striking headgear of delicate handmade flowers that have been elegantly woven into her hair. She explains that this was the result of an hour’s effort by her new friend — a grandmother she met during her visit to the village.
We continue to slide through the captures on her phone which are rare images of women from a community whose lives revolve around fishing, and their daily activities include crafting flowers, naturally dying fabrics and upcycling seafood waste into jewellery and other visual spectacles. The designer explains that she has now established a bond with them, by living their culture and learning their unique forms of art passed on over generations and dating to a millennium, which she exhibits in her latest collection.
Through her playful designs in her Spring Summer 2022 collection, Cheng Cheng brings to her audience – XunPu - in its visuals, and equally in its sounds.
“Bloom by yourself” is a visual and auditory panorama of the natural textures found around a seaside town blended with details achieved by the unthinkable capacity of the human hand. Inspired by its ethnic clothing and by the unique flower modelling by its women, free-spirted silhouettes like flowing statement trains and flower-like pants effortlessly “danced” down the runways in Cheng Cheng’s shows in fashion weeks around China.
The young designer wants to resurface the spirit of self-confidence that women experience by wearing the simplest of beautiful things on their bodies, like the women of XunPu who adorn themselves with their unique and original, hand-crafted creations. It is the compelling parallel between a human beings’ confidence in feeling beautiful and being full of love for themselves, and a blooming flower. Cheng Cheng sets a tone of calmness that she finds to be missing in a fast paced, industrialized world, that is required by human beings to listen to the inner self. She shares a gentle reminder to indulge in the infinite beauty that is often forgotten, though it prevails all over Earth.
Though young and modern in its indulgence into the digital age and creating garments for the humans of Generation Z, Cheng Cheng’s brand is based on appreciation for slow, diligent processes of creating exquisite pieces of art. She is greatly inspired by ancient, primitive craftsmanship and forms of living which she unfolds in her explorations of remote communities in China and is committed to bringing them to the spotlight through her creations. Her brand embraces exclusivity and promotes pollution-free, pro-environment fashion.
Her signature style is her fascination to experiment with her own fabrics. This is evident from her first collection, “Be a Monster” where she wove together hand-embroidery, chunky beads, gaudy sparkles, and bells to recreate a monster’s skin, of course complete with the “ringing” and “chiming” of these materials in their movement.
Cheng Cheng is devoted to exploring the unexplored, be it with her usage of unusual materials to create fabrics, making her clothes “sound” or connecting with remote, eye opening artisanal communities in her country.
She dreamt of designing clothes when she was five years old and wants to continue to explore new materials for fabrics, intricate handwork and slow fashion inspired by ancient traditions, to create pieces that lure the perceiver and captures their complete attention – all eyes, and ears.
Cheng Cheng Spring Summer 2022 Behind the scenes
Words Vinaya Naresh
All images Cheng Cheng Spring Summer 2022