Wenlan Chia (賈雯蘭), who became the first Taiwanese designer to debut at New York Fashion Week in 2003, has been teaching global fashion design at a local university in the hope of cultivating a new generation of Taiwanese talent and as a way of giving back to society.
Despite her success in New York’s highly competitive fashion industry, Chia — founder of “Twinkle by Wenlan” — has never forgotten her home country, where she lived for more than two decades before settling down in the US in 1991 to pursue her dream of being a fashion designer.
Because of Chia’s bond with Taiwan, she readily accepted a teaching position at Shih Chien University in Taipei, where she shares her years of experience working in the fashion business with students in Taiwan.
“There were many costly mistakes that could have been avoided if I had a mentor to assist me in getting to know the fashion industry,” Chia said. “So now I’m going to be that mentor to the future generations of designers in Taiwan.”
After one semester at the university, Chia said she found that while most of the students were passionate about fashion design, their knowledge of the global fashion industry was very limited.
“Fashion may seem to be a shallow industry, but it is ‘shallowly professional,’” Chia said jokingly, adding that while Taiwan boasts many talented young designers, few know how the global industry operates.
Most Taiwanese designers put too much emphasis on design and pay very little attention to what is fundamental to fashion, which is selling clothes, Chia said.
“Not only does a fashion brand need great design concepts, it also needs a group of dedicated followers,” she said.
This inspired her to present a new course focusing on brand management at the university.
To acquaint her students with the daily operations and management of a brand, Chia divides her students into three groups: design, marketing and administration.
Aside from offering students a glimpse into how the fashion industry works, the course gives them an opportunity to see which sector of the fashion industry interests them most, Chia said.
“Through this course, I want the younger generation to learn that Taiwan does have the potential and capability to build its own [global] fashion brands and that there is more to fashion than designing clothes, because fashion is made up of advertising designs, professional photography, marketing and market segmentation,” Chia said.
Chia said her students have started to grasp the basic concepts of fashion. She added that she plans to invite fashion connoisseurs from New York to guest in her class, to let them share their experience and benefit more young talent in Taiwan’s fledgling fashion industry.