Angel Chen’s AW20 Virtual Runway

Words by Ashley Dawson

Welcome to Angel Chen’s incredible and futuristic world; a world where technology and fashion meet for the first time in an explosion of color and urban whimsy. Chen’s Fall-Winter 2020 collection is all this and more, with a nod to the 1988 classic Japanese film Akira, “Aurora” begs to break the barrier between space and time and plays with the rules of reality like all good art should. Chen blurs the lines between Eastern and Western fashion seamlessly and with expert execution.

The new collection is revealed with a bang in a surprisingly new way; a virtual show via Instagram, showcasing this fall’s finest art in a jaw dropping and colorful presentation. The title “Aurora,” flashes across the screen along streaks of lightning, and the first piece to grace the steel colosseum of a stage is a bright red, leather trench coat. Model after model graces the runway in various red pieces, from velvet, pleated dresses to flowing satin robes.

Each model in this set sports a red look that is uncannily reminiscent of the 1988 motion picture Akira, a Japanese animation that follows a bike gang leader attempting to save his friend from a post-apocalyptic government conspiracy. Like much of the anime, Chen’s pieces are composed of hot reds and leathers that flow and cling to the models’ bodies. The influence of the main character’s ensemble (a red button up jacket and pants) can be seen in Chen’s red trench coats and leather biker shorts. Certain models can also be seen holding detailed motorcycle helmets, a nod to the movie’s central biker gang theme.

Lightning cracks across the screen and the stadium morphs into dozens of mannequin heads with Chen’s name illuminated across their foreheads. Male models cross the stage in eye-catching metallic tones and shining materials. Chen’s signature pleated design appears as a female model sports an off the shoulder metallic dress paired with lace up sandals. The tone of the show is powerful, poignant, and sharp.  Reflections from the neon red graffiti behind the models light up the room with words like, “the future is now.”

Chen’s ability to mix urban reality and dreams with technology lends itself to an unreal viewing experience. The scene shifts and a shower of stars falls onto the next model, a slender woman wearing a multicolor, pleated gown. A rotating floor piece adds to the futuristic elements of the show, and models rotate in and out of view in various fantastical pieces. Flare skirts and elbow length gloves covered in urban designs are paired with large hats and more motorcycle helmets.  A gorgeous woman with a silver painted face, clad head-to-toe in lime colored fur, moves gracefully in the rotating circle. If you look closely, you can see the patterns on the blouses and shirts the models are wearing are comprised of shining motorcycle tires and urban graffiti – another nod to the 1988 classic Japanese film.

The music takes a dramatic turn as the ethereal world crumbles and red tones reenter the stage. A female model walks powerfully into view, swinging silver fringe and a large hat moving with her body. Dramatic black pantsuits are enhanced with gleams of silver, and striking black eye makeup brings the forceful looks together. Floating rocks behind the models begin to self-destruct as a large, white light engulfs what looks like a large metropolitan city. This white light is perhaps an ode to the atomic destruction of the futuristic city in Akira, and signals the transition from set to set in the collection.

The final looks begin to walk the runway in front of cascading mountains complete with floating clouds and a pink sky; the soft tones in this final set of the collection seem to reflect the ethereal, soft feeling of the word “Aurora.” Chen’s pleated, flowing dresses return in bright blues with sparkling belts and furry purses at the models’ sides.  One of the most striking pieces of the collection, a billowy blue fur coat with a satin outfit underneath, graces the stage. The models’ simple, slicked hair adds to the futuristic tone and lets the clothes remain the star of the show.

The overall visual experience was, for me, a cinematic masterpiece expertly executed. The pieces flowed from one set to the next, matching the tone of the music and fitting the sets perfectly. Chen’s vision and inspiration is profound, and the futuristic feel of his clothes make you want to step into them and never step out.

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