Designer Chunchen Liu this year won both the Asian and the Saga Award at the international REMIX Youth Design Competition. Her winning pieces were featured in a Vogue Italia editorial shoot at Milano Fashion Week. Liu achieved her success through working with natural fur.
The REMIX prize awarded Liu the chance create her own capsule collection in partnership with Saga Furs and, in support of this, Liu spent a week at the Saga Furs Design Centre to explore new ideas around working with fur. Inspired by fur as a natural material, which has longevity and biodegrades at end of use, Liu set herself the challenge of producing a 100% climate-friendly collection. This was also something of a backlash against the amount of plastic and petroleum based material in today’s fashion. Current data shows that more than 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every day, these plastics don’t biodegrade and they’re entering our food chain.
“I wanted to create something in contrast to this,” Liu explains, “I wanted a collection that would speak out to consumers on plastic and overconsumption.”
It began back in 2016
Studying at the Bunka Fashion College in Japan, in 2016, Liu’s summer homework was to enter a design competition.
“Before that, I’d never thought of entering a competition,” Liu admits.
Liu chose the Japan Fur Design Competition, and, to her surprise, she became a finalist. She found working with fur in the production of her entry garment to be at once complex and fascinating.
Liu ended up winning the competition and was invited to enter the REMIX Asia Edition – a youth design competition promoting the use of natural fur in design. Liu won the grand prize. This qualified her for the international edition, which took place in Milan during Fashion Week.
Liu had two months to produce an additional two pieces. She won the Grand Prize again. As part of the prize, Liu received technical training from the artisan furriers at the Saga Furs Design Centre in Copenhagen, which she describes as enriching.
“I learnt a lot from the furriers, who taught me many techniques that I hadn’t known existed.”
Working together with the help of the Saga Furs artisans, Liu was able to incorporate some of this new knowledge into her collection pieces. “Fur is a beautiful sustainable material with endless creative possibilities. It is a very attractive material to me.”
“Fur has a lot of sustainability credentials.”
During her time with Saga Furs, Liu was also surprised to learn about the environmental elements of fur farming. “Every stage of fur production is sustainable, with animals eating waste bio-materials from food production and fur farming waste being converted into useful products like fertilizer or fuel.”
Liu’s collection is mostly handmade to avoid high CO2 emissions in production and put together using all natural environmentally friendly material including fur.
“Fur products if well-cared for can last decades and be remodeled, unlike chemically based substitutes, which often end up in landfill after a single season,” Liu explains.
100% climate friendly collection
As part of her vision to create a flowing ‘under the sea’ look, Liu mixed fur with other eco-materials such as organza silk and Tyvek – an environmentally friendly, non-toxic, non-woven material that’s easy to recycle. Tyvek’s complete combustion properties are carbon dioxide and water. To maximize resource use, she also learnt how to cut the fur using special techniques aimed at consuming less material.
Commenting on the Chunchen Liu’s capsule collection, Thea Larsen, Head of Product Development and Master Furrier at the Saga Furs Design Center said: “It’s a great pleasure for us to work with young designers like Chunchen Liu, because they come with new ideas and challenges for working with fur that our furriers can help them realize.”
The Design Center worked with Liu on various techniques to achieve her vision for the three garments in her collection, pictured below. The first piece used a checkerboard on fox approach to depict swimming fish shapes on the back of a bolero jacket; the second piece was a sweater playing with contrasting texture volumes – using thin organza with blue fur trim; and the third piece used thin strips of mink and fox to create a whale shape.
“We’ve been working with young designers and design students for the last 30 years now,” says Larsen. “Our goal has been not only to inspire them with new techniques, but also teach them that fur is a natural and sustainable material that can be part of their toolboxes.”
|“Chunchen Liu’s winning fur designs, aside from sending a strong eco-message, serve as a great reminder to fashion consumers that as our industry evolves towards sustainable materials use, fur is a natural good fit. This may be one more reason why millennial shoppers are participating in the fur trade in record numbers.” Tia Matthews, Fashion Business Director, Saga Furs
|“I did fall in love with the craftsmen at the Saga Furs Design Center; they were very kind and skillful artisans.” Chunchen Liu.|