Finally

Yen’s most recent work is an expression of profound changes that have taken place in his personal and professional life. ‘Finally’ takes its name from a song by Namie Amuro, Japan’s all-time most popular female pop artist and Yen’s avowed “hero” for more than 20 years. In late 2017, Amuro announced her retirement, and “Finally” is her farewell — to her fans, and also to her life as it was. “The lyrics are saying, ‘Embrace the unknown — whether it’s good or bad — and move on to a brighter future,’ which matches my current situation,” Yen explains, referring to his permanent return to Toronto, the setting up of Duly Equipped as a bona fide business, and leaving the familiarity and security of the West Coast in order to pursue his dreams. “I’ll take whatever comes my way with open arms, just like she sings in the song.”

The Four Gentlemen

The Four Gentlemen (or the “Four Noble Ones”) is a centuries-old subject of Chinese art, in which a quartet of plants-plum, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum-represent both physical beauty and intellectual nobility. Whether a plum tree’s ability to yield hundreds of brilliant blossoms in the midst of winter, or bamboo’s enviable resilience (easily bending but resistant to breaking), they embody the best traits of all living things. This collection is my interpretation of, and tribute to, the elegant brushstrokes that define Four Gentlemen paintings, as well as their unifying message of perennial grace.

Ostara

The colours of my previous collection were very subdued, and this was the opposite: an explosion of colour for spring and summer. Most men don’t like to wear attention-getting colour nowadays, which is a disappointment to me, so for this collection I took inspiration from the peacock style of Swinging London in the 1960s―specifically the period when the Mod movement began transitioning into psychedelia.

Some of the fabric patterns were custom made and based on my own illustrations, many of which include season-appropriate motifs like butterflies and lotus flowers. Even though I’ve spent my entire life in big cities, I love nature―especially animals and plant life. So I was very lucky that the photographer who shot the look book for this collection is friendly with a company that rents exotic animals; the clothes ended up being shot with a lemur, a flamingo, a macaw, a baby kangaroo, and more. The collection is my idealization of springtime: happiness and leisure, but also dignity and poise.

Duly Equipped

The graduation collection I made while studying at Shih-Chien University in Taipei had won the Best Menswear Collection prize, which was an honour, but I realized it meant little to nothing in the world outside of school, particularly because I’d left Taiwan and settled in Canada. I didn’t have a job―in the fashion industry or otherwise―or any contacts, so my first post-graduate collection was an effort to draw attention to myself. But, ironically, it was also a retreat into a school-oriented fantasy world.

Most of the fashion students at Shih-Chien made an effort to dress well whenever they were on campus, but this collection is my personal fantasy of an elite private school where a student gang of “rebellious gentlemen” consider dressing themselves in elegant but unusual suiting to be a badge of honour and, in fact, an act of rebellion, in contrast to the streetwear their fellow students wear when they don’t have to wear their school uniform. In an ideal world, it’s the sort of gang I would have belonged to when I was a young student.

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