Fashion design is Brandon Wen’s passion and pursuing his education and career is taking him around the world.
Remember the name Brandon Wen. Any day now, you will be seeing him and his fashion designs on the cover of Vogue and on the runway at Paris Fashion Week. A recent graduate from the well regarded fashion program at Cornell University, Brandon is now pursuing advanced studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. He is gaining an international perspective while developing his craft, and the possibilities for his future are endless. Brandon has been my friend since high school, and I had the honor of interviewing him about his creative universe and his fashion design inspiration.
Samantha Jacobs: When did you first know you wanted to be in the fashion realm?
Brandon Wen: As lame as it sounds, when I was in middle school, I watched an episode of Project Runway by accident and I fell completely in love. It was the episode from season three I think, where they get sent to Paris to create couture gowns, and I remember feeling so excited about the creativity and intensity of everything they were doing. After that I convinced my parents to buy me a sewing machine and I helped out making costumes for our middle school play. It’s funny that it happened because I had no idea how to sew, but it gave me the confidence to keep on working and get really involved in sewing and fashion.
SJ: What was your earliest inspiration?
BW: There were a lot of things that inspired me at the beginning like art, color and nature, but the moment when I discovered something that really ignited me was when I found out about the Royal Academy in Antwerp. Before that I had only ever seen Project Runway or Vogue and my view on fashion was quite small. One day on a trip with a master class I was taking with the Arts of Fashion, we went to Antwerp to see the museums and fashion work there. I was really inspired that people there were creating with so much imagination and such a huge world of fantasy. I knew then that the work that was so boundless and energetic was exactly what I wanted to be doing.SJ: How did Cornell further your inspiration? What were your biggest challenges there?
BW: Cornell really let me explore myself in terms of design. There weren’t any rules or expectations as to what kind of designers we were supposed to be, so I was free to do whatever I wanted which really helped me find a personal world and design universe. My biggest challenge, however, was that I wasn’t surrounded by the creativity that I wanted, so I didn’t have so many people to reflect off of or to grow from. It was difficult because the design environment made it hard at times to really push forward and create beyond the world around me.
SJ: Why did you decide to go to Belgium?
BW: I went to Belgium to study because, obviously, I have wanted to study in Antwerp since I was 17 and for me it had always served as a beacon for design and inspiration. The fashion industry that I believe in is much more in Europe and Asia than in America so of course I wanted to be a part of that. For me it has really been a dream come true to come to Antwerp to study and be in a creative atmosphere where everyday I am forced to grow and become better.
SJ: What are the biggest differences between American and European fashion?
BW: For me, the biggest differences I have found are the focus on business and creativity. In America, the design style is much more sober as it is often heavily concerned with business, selling and markets. However in Europe I believe there is a stronger desire to create something more, design that says something about the world and pushes boundaries in visuals and creativity. These are of course generalities, there are people all over who create amazing things despite what is happening around them, but for me the epicenter of fashion design, creativity, and innovation is definitely in Europe and Asia.
SJ: Have you worked with both runway and editorial fashion?
BW: When studying fashion, you always have to consider both runway and editorial. You have to be thinking about a beautiful runway presentation that incorporates music, choreography and styling to truly captivate an audience and at the same time how that same world can also be represented in print with strong graphic qualities to give a unified effect. Understanding how your ideas translate across different mediums is key to fashion because you never know when or how someone is going to see your work, so it is important that no matter how it is viewed, people will be able to clearly see you vision and universe.
“It’s always personal, whether it is pop music, anime or poop art, I put it all into my design.”
SJ: Where does most of your information/inspiration come from currently?
BW: That’s an interesting question because at the moment I am definitely thinking about who I am and what defines my creative universe. I always take inspiration from the things that I like. As a starting point and base for what I do, the things that inspire me are always the interests and obsessions I have that define who I am. For example, the cartoons I watch, or music that I love and even the art or TV shows that I can’t get enough of. I use it all, because all of it makes me who I am and the creative world I imagine. It’s always personal, whether it is pop music, anime or poop art, I put it all into my design.
SJ: What’s next for you? Location-wise? Career-wise?
BW: I plan on staying in Antwerp for a while, to finish the program at the Royal Academy, but afterwards I hope to start something in Paris and really get a grounding in the center of the industry. Off course all of that will take a long time, but afterwards who knows!? I’d love to move to Asia, fall in love with Tokyo or Seoul, the world is my oyster!!
“work hard, harder than you’ve ever worked in your life and then even harder.”
SJ: Do you have any advice for any aspiring designers?
BW: For anyone who wants to be a designer in the fashion industry, I would say to know who you are and stick to that, to constantly try to grow and improve. Even in an industry like fashion there are still so few people who are creating from a place of love and making something that truly expresses their personal world. After that work hard, harder than you’ve ever worked in your life and then even harder. The only thing anyone ever got from being lazy was a good night’s sleep, and a good night’s sleep will never make you a pro in fashion!
Video from Cornell Fashion Collective 2015