Jacquard Loom

Believing That Antiquity is Modernity

Hi Jiahao, could you please tell us a bit of yourself and your background?

Hi, my name is Jiahao Chen, a fashion designer based in London. I came to London seven years ago to pursue my study in London College of Fashion, specializing in Menswear Fashion Design Technology. After my graduation, I stepped into the fashion industry by working in a fashion house in Shanghai, designing innovative Chinese-style wedding couture. Two years after working there, I decided to quit my job to establish my own brand, Jacquard Loom.


What makes you decide to go to London to study?

Influenced by my family’s clothing business, I’ve been wanted to study fashion design since I was a child. My parents are fashion buyers, I think they always knew I would go abroad to study fashion design. After a thorough research based on my preferred fashion style and city vibe, I decided to come to London for study.


That’s interesting! But what makes you decide to relocate back to London after Shanghai?

There are various reasons behind it. The main reason is the sudden lockdown in Shanghai two years ago due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, I have just finished shooting the lookbook of my third collection the day before, and the lockdown arrived. During that time, neither could I receive the fabrics and samples from the factory, nor could I ship the orders to my clients. The growth of my brand was stagnant, and it really frustrated me. I always knew that I would come back to London, but I never found the right opportunity and excuse to do so. This incident somehow gave me an impetus to eventually move back to London. Interestingly, I left London for Shanghai because of the pandemic, and I left Shanghai for London also for it.

Can we say that the pandemic somehow gave you an opportunity to reconsider your career path?

Indeed. I graduated during the pandemic; finding a job that was suitable for me wasn’t easy. During that time, I could only ease my anxiety by connecting with friends through social media. It was this occasion that made me discover the potential of e-commerce entrepreneurship and fortified my decision to found Jacquard Loom.


Aside from the catalysis of the pandemic, are there any other reasons behind the establishment of your own brand?

Having my own brand has always been my dream since I was a kid. After studying fashion design, I started to notice that even though I love fashion so much, it was quite difficult for me to find designs on the market that I want to buy. Hence, I want to create clothes that I will like and will want to wear, entirely under my aesthetic and creative direction.


I am happy to know that you manage to find your way during this chaotic time. But what makes you stay in London afterwards?

The atmosphere of this city is magical. It’s full of vitality and creativity. Living here somehow gives me a feeling of living in the animated TV series “Martin Matin”, no matter how frustrated, defeated or sad you were, the next morning when you wake up, they are always something new happening, new inspiration emerging and new challenges waiting to be solved.


My friends are another of the major reasons for me to come back and stay in London. They have always been supportive to me and my career. They also helped me a lot when I decided to build my own brand. On top of that, I have many artist friends here in London with whom I collaborate occasionally.

As a young designer, what do you think London attracts you (and all the other aspiring international talents)? What kind of resources they have that are different compare to other cities (or to your hometown)?

London is very open-minded and free-spirited. This city is a cultural melting pot, with people from all over the world, who can bring me different insights and new ideas. The fashion industry in London is full of energy and opportunities, many designers’ works are unrestricted and uncontaminated by the market. This allows me to obtain some of the most cutting-edge information and inspiration every day. Overall, London is a city that always brings me unexpected surprises. I tend to dress like an old man and I adore vintage stuff, but with the infusion of London’s modernity and youthfulness, I’ve definitely had a breakthrough in the way of thinking and of perceiving things.


Just like the name of my brand, Jacquard Loom, I like the old jacquard fabric, but I always want to give it a new twist.


What are your sources of inspiration? Where do you usually get your inspiration from?

I really like to watch some independent film, some experimental theaters and visit some exhibitions in London. These cultural events often inspire me a lot. Sometimes, small but interesting encounters happen in my life can give me some inspiration. I also draw inspiration from my own experience and the environment in which I grew up in, as well as from my understanding of myself and my family.

How would you describe your design style?

I am interested in some antique elements and vintage style, just like jacquard fabric. I want to redefine them through different cutting and deconstruction methods, and express them in a more unique way.


Basically, I don’t buy fast fashion. Instead, I prefer to buy from charity shop, vintage shop or antique shop, whether it is to save money, be environmentally friendly or draw inspiration. I want to combine these old things with my new design concepts and make them more avant-garde, modern and more acceptable to the public.


Wearability is another point that I value. There are many designers who have strong concepts, creating beautiful and one-of-a-kind designs. However, their clothes tend to be less wearable and less practical. I believe that considering wearability is the key in fashion design.

So far, you’ve done 2 collections and 1 mini collection, would you like to go through them to us quickly so we can have a clearer vision on how they look like?

The first collection was my graduation project. Due to the pandemic, I could not present it in the graduation show. It was a huge regret for me, because I overcame a lot of difficulties to create this collection. The inspiration for this collection came from a movie I watched “The Garden” (1990). The title of my first collection is “Lavender Marriage”. I wanted to express the vision of breaking through the stereotypes of the original family and finally holding a same-sex wedding for myself.


After graduation, I started working on my second collection and my mini collection – the t-shirt. The reason why I decide to make the t-shirt is, as a queer person in China, I’ve experienced a lot of oppression because of my sexual preference. To recognize and to accept my body and my identity, I printed a lot of my names on the armpits of the t-shirt’s, expressing my concept in a sarcastic and humorous way. The particular fabric I used also represent the fibrous texture of the skin itself.


In my third collection, my design became more contained and inclusive. I began to consider the wearability and functionality of the clothing, for both menswear and womenswear. Starting with my favorite jacquard fabrics, I adopted a method combining rigidity and softness to revitalize these vintage elements.

We’ve noticed some gender fluid elements in your design, is this a topic that you are interested in discussing through your design?

When I was very young, I loved to wear my mother’s clothes stealthily and styled myself in some feminine looks at home. As a part of LQBTQIA+, my design is a testament of my gender identity. I really like the work of artist Jared French. His use of colors in his artistic expression on body structures of different genders have always influenced me. However, in the context of fashion design, I have always felt that gender a secondary topic to me.


Instead of calling my designs gender fluid, I like to consider them not limited by the gender boundaries. They are genderless, they suit the traits and characteristics of the person wearing them, rather than their gender. However, I do have to stress the fact that the sophisticated techniques I’ve learned from my menswear design formation is quite helpful, and they influenced my design immensely.


Interesting! If you consider gender a secondary topic to you, what are the more important messages you want convey through your design?

I would like to create a freer, bolder and more special context without gender constraints to showcase the beauty, craftsmanship and original expression of some antique and vintage items. Combining my love and understanding to contemporary art, I would love to reinterpret these forgotten elements, such as the jacquard fabrics, in a new and poetic way in my collection.

Are there any other topics you would like to tackle or to incorporate to your future design?

I would like to propose some ideas about sustainability and upcycling, like to collect some older but interesting items, and repurpose them into my design. This is something I really care and I believe that this is one of the topics we should be focus on when talking about future of fashion.


What are the future plans for Jacquard Loom, both design-wise and business-wise?

Design-wise, I would like to create something in knitting, just to make the collection more interesting. Of course, my principle of combining the so-called “classic” and “traditional” elements and transforming them into something contemporary and cutting-edge will still be the base of the knitwear designs. In addition, I would also like to discover more possibilities in fabrics, such as experimenting with the modification of textile.


If finances permit, I would like to add accessories, shoes and bag designs to my next collection to create a more complete look for Jacquard Loom.


Business-wise, I would like to build a personal website to launch the brand’s e-commerce business; and to collaborate with some multi-brand store to sell my designs. Also, I would love to seek for opportunities to work with some fashion platforms that provide runway shows and exposure for young designers; hoping to raise the brand awareness, popularity and visibility of Jacquard Loom.