By: Alex Lee -
Meet Yenting Chen. He settled in Toronto in early 2011, having arrived in Vancouver from Taipei, Taiwan, the previous summer. He’s a man of many cities, leading just as many roles in creating his menswear company. Working solely as a one-man team, he divides his time working as the head designer, tailor and the sole manager of his brand Duly Equipped, all with the spare time to create patterns from his own illustrations. Chen’s formulaic combination of fine art sensibilities with classic tailoring has established his brand as a favourite among many of Toronto’s fashion aficionados.
“I believe that beautiful, classic garments will never be out of style,” says Chen. “What I’m doing with my work is innovating that very concept, giving it a bit of a twist, and introducing new styles.”
Harbouring a deep fervour for the arts since high school, it’s no wonder Chen’s work takes close inspiration from the painterly styles of contemporary art. While this ambition lotted him a period of developing his creativity, it wasn’t until his discovery of the world of menswear where he solidified his passion for fashion, ultimately leading to pursue a career in the fashion industry.
“I wanted to be an animator at first,” says Chen. “But as I got older, I decided that I wanted to apply my skills in art to something else. That’s when I decided to go to fashion school, as a lot of the skills necessary in the area are similar to those in art.”
“And besides,” he continues. “I’ve always wanted to make my own clothes.”
Contrary to the expansive imagination and intricate details showcased in his pieces, Chen’s creative process is quite simple: sketching out the first batch of preliminary ideas, picking out his favourites by a process of elimination and, finally, deciding the conceptual direction of the pieces; it’s a straight-forward approach, much like how an artist would prepare a new painting.
“I don’t really have a theme or concept set right at the start,” says Chen. “I just do a lot of sketching, trying to get a clear visual representation of what I want to see. Once I have enough content to work from, I pick out a couple that I really like. The concepts and colour schemes all come after.”
“I was very inspired by the motif of springtime, resulting in pieces that are much brighter and louder than my first.”
After a critically acclaimed debut collection released last April, Chen’s second endeavour is the Spring/Summer 2013 collection, which effortlessly keeps in line Chen’s inspirations, recalling the elegance of centuries-old London redressed in a youthful glow. It’s dangerously classic, yet manages to fine-tune the seemingly black-and-white standards of formal wear.
Style-wise, it’s mostly in the same vein as his last, working from a foundation of his fascination with copiously tidy designs.
“I was very inspired by the motif of springtime, resulting in pieces that are much brighter and louder than my first,” says Chen.
Like its precedent, it’s an avant take on a classic suiting style, unafraid of stepping out of traditions to adhere to a much more fashion-forward aesthetic. Utilizing the motif of springtime as its central concept, the collection is doused in pastel tones and psychedelia-inspired patterns. Butterflies and lotus flowers are just to name a few.
“I can see men who aren’t afraid of colours and unique patterns wearing my clothes,” Chen says. “Men who are in tune with fashion, and men who can appreciate fine workmanship and the little details in a piece.”
He favours the traditional sensibilities of the 1960s gentlemen, a notion he stresses intently in his craft. Still, Chen hardly stays fixated on his philosophy of simplicity and clean-cut contours; his bold designs often gravitate towards loud colours and head-turning patterns. Although he’s a loyal fanatic of proper tailoring at heart, Chen shows no hesitance when it comes to crossing a few creative boundaries.
“The new collection is very much about meriting feminine and masculine motifs in menswear without making it seem overtly feminine,” says Chen. “I’ve incorporated a lot of colours and patterns that you normally wouldn’t see in menswear.”
“I don’t want Duly Equipped to become some elite brand, I want it to be something for everyone.”
“I think there’s always a bit of unisex flare in my clothes,” he continues. “I guess you can say that I’m demonstrating that quality to the full extent with this collection.”
Marrying the classic formality of London’s Savile Row with his taste for contemporary styles, Chen’s perception of the old-fashioned concept of dandy is continually shifted and unmoored, constantly reinventing the standard formal menswear with avant sensibilities.
“I want to make beautiful clothes for people to see and wear,” says Chen. “I believe that I have something fresh to offer in the menswear industry, and I hope people will see that as well.”
While Chen has already started work on his next collection, his focus for 2013 will be to develop Duly Equipped into a business, making the clothes more open for local fashionistas to purchase with ease.
“I want to make my clothes more accessible to people,” says Chen. “I’m only taking orders from web clients right now, but I’m striving to make my brand more open.”
“I don’t want Duly Equipped to become some elite brand,” continues Chen. “I want it to be something for everyone.”