Photography by Alin Kovacs
styling by alessandra conti
interview by carlotta buosi
It’s funny how great talent sometimes hides from the what’s considered to be a mainstream audience, refusing to come out until it considers itself ready. Jenny Chen and Stacey Huang - both originally Chinese, both Central Saint Martins graduates - are the perfect portrayal of this kind of talent: true creative souls, who are not striving to come out of their bubble for everyone else to see, but whose work is too good not to - ultimately - be gaining its own life, and start speaking for itself. Merging together their respective experiences, backgrounds and skills, Jenny and Stacey launched their own brand - W11Studio - in 2016, creating ready-to-wear and jewellery pieces for independent, metropolitan women whose main desire is comfort, with style, and a wardrobe which focuses on clever details rather than complicated constructions.
Jenny and Stacey accepted to speak with Lurve as their first official extensive interview and told more about themselves, what inspires them and what brought them together to create W11Studio.
Jenny and Stacey, let’s start from you. Tell us about yourself.
Jenny: After graduating from Central Saint Martins in London, I’ve pursued a career in fashion as a designer - first - and as a visual merchandised for luxury brands too. I liked it, but I’ve always felt like I needed to do something different. Finally, I’ve decided to jump and start a new brand. I think that - especially as fashion is such a competitive industry - that it’s a matter of faith when you happen to meet someone who shares your own dreams. Even more, when this person makes you realise what your real dream is! In our case it was creating something completely new. That’s how W11Studio was born.
Stacey: Since graduating from Central Saint Martins I’ve been in charge of all ornamental details on W11Studio garments, which complete and enrich Jenny’s vision. I also design jewellery pieces for the brand. As acontemporary jewellery artist, my focal point is questioning the traditional notion of jewellery design, pushing its boundaries to create something new and different from anything else. Jewellery and fashion might seem like two very different worlds, but they match perfectly. I’ve known Jenny for longtime, so when she asked me to join in W11Studio as accessory and jewellery designer it just felt right. I haven’t thought of it for more than a moment, I just went for it.
When exactly did you realise it was time to launch something of your own?
Jenny: We launched our brand on 2016. W11 is actually the postcode of Notting Hill in London, where our first studio was. Our team is very international, we come from different countries and have had different experiences in the past, but we’ve all met there, in the same place at the same time and that’s what the name wants to celebrate: that particular place in the world where we met, shared ourpassion for fashion and decided to begin this adventure together.
Jenny, you’ve worked alongside designers for the likes of Hussein Chalayan and worked as a visual merchandiser for brands such as Ralph Lauren. How would you describe these experiences and what have they thought you?
Jenny: I think that working as visual merchandiser has helped me a lot. It taught me notions of branding, how to present a collection and how to think of it visually. The way pieces are displayed in a store should reflect the way in which the designer has thought of the collection and viceversa
Stacey, you’ve won a series of awards – such as Annoushka Graduate award for outstanding design and the finalist of Swarovski award ,nominated by MullenLowe Nova Award - since the very beginning of your career. How does it feel to see your work appreciated and understood at such a young stage?
Stacey: All these wonderful people have been of huge support for me and not only because of the exposure that these awards have allowed me to experience. The team of Annoushka - for example - has taught me lots of precious notions on how to be a professional within the jewellery industry, which I cherish very much. Of course, part of the excitement still is the fact that people from the same industry you aim to enter appreciate your hard work, but I see these opportunity more as a stepping stone on a long path. Having the chance to step on that stone and move forward from it is both a great achievement and a great challenge.
What is W11Studio all about?
Jenny and Stacey: W11Studio is all about independent women who want to feel comfortable, no matter the occasion, and who prefer refined details and simple cuts to complicated extravagance.
How do you manage to merge your aesthetics into one unique identity?
Jenny: The contrast between femininity and masculinity is our usual starting point, which helps us to merge our works and aesthetics together. For example, combining tiny pearls and precious chains as details on the garments or using fax fur as additional element on a simple hoodie, everything is meant to explore the dichotomy between feminine and masculine and create a balance between them.
Stacey, you currently create all accessories and details which complete W11Studio sleek design. Tell us about your creative process: does is start before, with or after the clothes?
Stacey: It depends, sometimes I start thinking of the jewellery and details before the collection development begins, or I might look at Jenny’s work and take inspiration from there instead. It happened that Jenny asked me to do something specific for a particular piece too, while other times I just design something I want and combine it with the clothes afterwords. Occasionally, the way in which the two - jewellery and RTW - get paired together surprises us both.
Designing is kind of a constant experiment, isn’t it?
Stacey: Definitely! The goal is to find out the best formula to make it work, no matter how you find it. Jenny and I usually decide the style of the collection together and develop one main theme. Then we research - which is very important part of this stage - to determine the overall direction that the collection will be taking. We usually research separately and then present each other with our ideas. The purpose of this is to stretch the theme as much as possible toward our different ways of seeing it. We can do this as we have complete trust in each other: Jenny trusts me to create my pieces with the techniques and methods I prefer and I trust her to then combine them with the garments in the way she prefers, once I hand them over to her.
What do you look at for inspiration?
Jenny: It could be everything. A story I read, a film or even people. Everything coming from life.
Stacey: I agree, inspiration is everywhere: it could be an artwork, a piece of design, a picture, a sentence that catches my attention, a poem. It could even be something I’ve imagined! Inspiration is important to me, but the most important thing is how to use it in a truly creative way.
You’ve both spent a significant amount of time in London, but you’re now divided between the British capital and Shanghai. Can you tell us what are, in your opinion, the biggest differences between these two cities?
Jenny: These are really different cities. I find London more relaxed. There are a lot of amazing galleries and exhibitions which you can take inspiration from. Shanghai is convenient for business, but much more intense.
Stacey: The most attractive thing about London for me is all the art and culture you can experience there. During my time in London, everything I’ve seen has inspired me a lot. Also, in London there are many platforms supporting emerging designers, it’s a very open-minded place for people who have good ideas. Shanghai is cool city, it’s dynamic, but it’s sometimes harder to see inspiring things here. The contract between two cities is quite fascinating.
Who is your woman and what is she looking for in the pieces she wears?
Jenny and Stacey: Our woman is every girl. She’s someone independent who would an wear oversize fur hoodie, mixed matched with a tailored skirt with lace details. Casual, refined, comfortable .
Model: Sydney @ STORM