Hong Kong based designer Chen Zhi, is behind knitwear label i-am-chen, Fashion Scout Ones to Watch for AW18. We caught up with Chen Zhi to hear how the preparation for the show is going, and why i-am-chen strives to bring the fun and light-hearted spirit to people who embrace an eternal sense of childish playfulness.

Focusing exclusively on knitting, i-am-chen aims to challenge the definition of knitting by creating garments made by advanced machines with new techniques, using unconventional yarns. Find out more about this creative and innovative designer below. 

How did you feel when you were named as a Ones To Watch for AW18?

I was just so happy that I would be able to go back to London! I have not been back since I graduated in Feb 2017 and I miss the city very very much. Then I started to panic because I was a little behind for the development of AW18. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to present my works to so many industry experts. 

What messages do you hope to convey through your work?

Alexander Calder’s playfulness and David Hockney’s lightheartedness have inspired me very much. In a fashion world that is obsessed with serious concepts, I hope to bring the fun and playful spirit to my audiences who have a young soul regardless of their age. 

How has your career progressed to reach this point?

Rollercoaster. I cannot find a better word than rollercoaster. Knitting is indeed a very difficult category. It is not that I can just lock myself up in a room and create a garment. It involves a huge team that deals with different processes from knitting, linking and so on. I had been running around China to look for the most suitable factories, yarn suppliers and technicians. It was only until very recently that I started feeling I have enough reliable suppliers to guarantee new development and production and of course I will continue optimising our supply chain.

There were numerous ups and downs over the last ten months. Now I just feel very blessed to have won three important awards since October. It is very encouraging and reassuring. I am very grateful. 

What can we expect from your pieces this season?

I have been exploring i-am-chen’s identity throughout this season. I would say I have fine-tuned my style and more importantly, AW18 will be much more comfortable to wear. It is also the first time I ever use traditional knitting materials such as wool and cashmere, so AW18 will be a clash of conventional yarns and i-am-chen.

What are your plans for the future?

The knitting machines are very powerful, but they have hardly reached their potentials. Most of the knitwear today only require the very basic capabilities of the machines. It is almost like driving a Ferrari at 30 miles per hour. I want to dig deep into these machines to create knitwear that we have never seen.