Thu, Feb 03, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Trendy models wear art

From costume to casual, Jasper Huang's one-of-a-kind designs are being worn by stars and fans alike

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

The 26-year-old artist-turned-designer Jasper Huang.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF JASPER HUANG

Jasper Huang (黃嘉祥) never thought the frocks he sketched for his comic book characters would later be worn by Mando-pop star Jay Chou on his The One tour. But the 26-year-old self-taught designer is now dressing the stars as well as trendy kids who stumble upon his little shop in Taipei's Zhongshan district.

With a background in oil painting and metal craft, Huang's talent has spilt into different areas of design. After graduating from a fine arts college in Tainan, he worked as a fashion graphic designer when his interest in the industry was piqued. Within four years the young artist has etched himself a comfortable niche in the fashion market.

"I had no experience making clothes. I liked to play around with drawings, but I didn't expect them to materialize into anything. I didn't really take it seriously then," Huang said. He was also oblivious to how good his work was until one of his drawings took first prize in Elle's Young Talent Fashion Competition.

Unready to make a career jump, he spent the next six months teaching himself how to sew. In 2001 Huang entered another competition, this time in Italy. At the International Competition for Young Shoe Designers, his shoe design was selected and displayed in Florence.

With a second win under his belt, Huang felt more assured of his ability to make clothes. Before he embarked on a commercial fashion career, however, he immersed himself in the fashion

cultures of New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo, experiences he financed by continuing to work as a freelance graphic designer.

Huang returned to Taiwan in 2002 and shortly after launched his own clothing label with Jay Chou as his first client. He has two lines now: causal-wear merchandise that he sells in his store and clothes worn by the stars. His custom-made pieces are considerably more extravagant in both their uses of color and fabric. Most of his orders come from Taiwanese and Japanese performers and include the outfit worn by Japanese musician Akinori Nakagawa during his performance at Taipei's Red Playhouse last weekend.

Some clients compare his work to that of US designer Tom Ford due to its solid, often dark, color scheme and minimalist style. From freehand-painted patterns on dress shirts to a pair of floral-print men's trousers, no two items are identical.

Roughly 75 percent of the clothing in his store is T-shirts. Each has its own distinctive pattern print on the surface, which uses traditional Chinese techniques such as paper cutting, stamping or ink brush painting. There are no qipaos, but the colors, patterns and cut of the clothing gives it a slight Asia flavor. "I am Taiwanese and I want to incorporate aspects of my culture into whatever I am designing," he said.

His background in painting also explains why each T-shirt sits somewhere between art and fashion.

After a year in the business, he has already acquired three employees who assist him in making the clothes, but all designs originate with Huang. Whether it's costume or causal he takes pride in every article. "I put a lot of myself into all my pieces, no matter who it's for. I enjoy working on big projects for musicians or runway show pieces, but having a store is important to provide affordable clothing," he said.

Plans to make Jasper Huang a brand name are in process and he aims to take the label to Japan and America in the near future. In the meantime he is preoccupied with a new project that combines his talents for both graphic and fashion design. In his latest work, Huang's original computer-generated drawings are printed directly onto fabric using new printer technology. The textiles are then made into clothing.

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