Kaohsiung-based fashion designer Ms. Chung Pei-yin established her fashion label ERIKA CHUNG in 2014. Ms. Chung is a native of Taitung, in southeast Taiwan, yet it was in Kaohsiung that she opened her first flagship store in August this year. Ms. Chung says that Kaohsiung was once known as a “Garment Kingdom,” and that many experienced tailors live in the city. Because Kaohsiung possesses so many skilled tailors, Ms. Chung decided to start her business here.
Ms. Chung is also confident that Kaohsiung will never lack for fashion designers. Two local colleges have Fashion Design departments, Shih Chien and Shu-Te Universities. Ms. Chung thinks that, with government support, the apparel industry will thrive, and designers will put down roots in Kaohsiung. She hopes more Kaohsiung-based designers will shine on the international stage.
Ms. Chung’s mother is a vegetable vendor in a local market in Taitung. Her mother takes pride in her work, serving only high-quality vegetables to her customers. As a result, word-of-mouth has brought her a band of loyal regulars. Growing up in a single-parent family, seeing her mother work diligently to support the family, gave Ms. Chung the drive to explore her talents and pursue her dreams.
Ms. Chung does not have a degree in fashion, but this does not hamper her zeal for or interest in the industry. She majored in accounting at Fortune Institute of Technology, then completed a graduate degree in management at Aletheia University. Ms. Chung says that, while she was pursuing her graduate degree, Korean culture was pervasive in both cinema and fashion, earning the admiration of many Taiwanese.
To cope with the huge demand for Korean garments, a growing number of individual merchandisers began selling Korean products online. Ms. Chung herself took part in this kind of trade to raise money to pay her tuition fees. She first bought garments in Kaohsiung’s Houyi Shopping Area, a famous garment-shopping area centered on Anning Street. As a keen observer of Korean fashions, she accumulated experience, then ventured to Dongdaemum in Seoul to select Korean merchandise by herself. Her stylish clothes won her a devoted following. Importing Korean garments inspired Ms. Chung to begin dreaming that, one day, maybe she could have a fashion label of her own.
Ms. Chung has now established a flagship store in Kaohsiung and rents a studio within a school campus. She says her designs demonstrate fine craftsmanship through attention to delicate details worked on by skillful tailors. Recruiting experienced tailors was her first task when she established her studio. She then forged a close alliance with a fabric manufacturer, from which she sources her signature double-textured fabric.
Ms. Chung says that creating a fashion brand demands full concentration and has used up a lot of money, but she is fearless when acting on her inner voice. She faces a dilemma: Pursue her dream with enthusiasm, or lose it. Daring to dream is just a beginning for her as a new fashion designer, and she embraces any opportunities to showcase her works on the international stage. She has attended some major fashion events, including the 2016 JFW International Fashion Fair in Tokyo and 2016 Taipei IN Style. Ms. Chung has had to conquer obstacles such as a lack of funds to showcase at international events, seeking sponsors in order to attend more events, and stretching herself in her efforts to be seen. This September, when Mimi Chen and Angel Su, directors of the documentary Happy Birthday, received the honor of being a shortlisted entry on stage at the 10th Chinese Documentary Festival in Hong Kong, they wore dresses tailored by Ms. Chung.
Scrutinizing an ERIKA CHUNG collection, one notices that weaving seems to be a core element in her work. Interestingly, while Taiwanese celebrated Double Ten National Day on October 10 this year, the main visual design logo was inspired by the patterning on nylon woven bags, long associated in vernacular culture with grandmothers’ going shopping. Ms. Chung adds that the weaving technique magnifies the traits of a finely-designed garment. She draws inspiration from daily life and things around her. Having lived in Kaohsiung for 10 years now, Kaohsiung is the city that plays host to her creativity, and is where she continues to grow roots and spread her wings.
ERIKA CHUNG flagship store
4F., Number 59, Wufu 3rd Rd., Cianjin Dist., Kaohsiung City (Star Palace Department Store)