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Tianqi Chen: The Woman Warrior

Tianqi Chen is again bringing her creativity and ingenuity to bear. The young fashion designer recently launched The Woman Warrior, a collection that portrays the beauty of women’s strength through fighting emotional struggles. The collection is constituted with Macramé and drawstring. Purposefully employing hard and soft materials of the drawstring, the piece represents the coexistence between vulnerability and strength. Through the gathering enabled by the drawstrings, Tianqi creates a distance between the piece and the body to represent the contained emotions while the Macramé shows the ultimate power and resilience of women, making it armor-like .

“This processing of Macramé is a conversation with the audience. It is to show the healing story of those who are searching for peace.” Tianqi further elaborated, “The intertwined lines form triangles and rhombi, which symbolize the firmness and resistance behind the seeming gentleness of women. The negative space of lines and shapes invites the audience to navigate a symbolic space of the relief-searching journey. All the dense and sparse places are also a manifestation of this oppositional relationship. In the words of my friend, it is ‘softness against strength’”.

Tianqi Chen: The Woman Warrior

Tianqi was raised in China and received her college education at a women’s institute in the States where she embarked on a self-identifying journey through experiencing cultural conflicts, while majoring in Fashion Design. After graduation, she took a detour and worked as an editor for two years and then decided to refocus on fashion and join the MFA program at Parsons School of Design, where she had a chance to experiment with Macramé and crochet. Those experiences have greatly helped Tianqi when applying to internships and jobs. As a result, she successfully obtained the knitwear internship opportunity at Thom Brown and contractor jobs after graduating from Parsons.

In this new collection The Woman Warrior, Tianqi was inspired by the anxiety around body images that many people might have experienced. She uses the functionality of drawstring to create a transformational system that allows audiences to alter not only the fit but the appearance of garments. Hence, Tianqi’s design can be worn by different ages, sizes, heights, and genders. Through adaptability and inclusivity in these designs, Tianqi attempts to bring awareness to women who are going through or have been through the path of relief-finding, to rebuild their confidence and challenge body ideals and gender norms.

Tianqi Chen: The Woman Warrior

The limited patternmaking, factory production, and model fitting resources during COVID19 also shaped the process of Tianqi’s collection. All cording materials used in this collection were dead stock donations. Tianqi used natural dye to modify the shade of materials and was inspired to hand knot all looks directly onto bodies to reduce waste. All cording could be disassembled to recreate new pieces.

“I did not realize that I’m the kind of designer who works with my hands until the pandemic. Without a ‘traditional’ studio setting, I had to rethink my design and production approach. Knotting directly onto bodies was simply a solution for not having a sewing machine and pattern table at the beginning…But during this process, I developed a new way of seeing and storytelling. As my eyes traveled with the cording, my hands knotted them together with the histories and entanglements from different individual encounters in mind. I realized that the individual and collective memory of womanhood is embodied in these pieces.” Tianqi explained.

Tianqi is about to embrace a whole new life on the west coast. She is full of anticipation for the challenges to come and is expected to bring more excellent artwork to the society.

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