We at Temper crossed over to the dark side a lifetime ago, though admittedly our “edge” is brimming with red (wine), neon lights and bright eyesight-blasting graffiti. Being the tempestuously temperamental personalities we portray ourselves to be, Temper goes deep with founder of menswear brand Chronic Tiwill Tang as we talk dragon chimneys, conflict and Visual Kei.
ˈ”Color is something used to please the eye and bears within very strong emotional attachments,” Tiwill Tang
Fun party fact to kick things off: Creative director and designer of menswear brand Chronic, and its current Blacklisted Collection, Tiwill Tang shares his official “pinyin passport” name with one very famous Chinese actress: Tang Wei. Tang, the thespian, in 2008 was blacklisted (i.e. boycotted) by the Mainland’s film industry after starring in Ang Lee’s erotic drama “Lust, Caution” when China’s State Administration of Radio Film and Television at the time demanded that “all local stations cease airing ads starring Tang, including her skin care commercials for cosmetics brand Pond‘s,” local media reported. Party tactics at work, indeed.
Blackout, duskiness, eclipse, smokiness, shadiness, and so the thesaurus tags on; all in all, “darkness” invokes a sense of inquisitive mystery with some souls and a feeling of intrusive mortification with others. Nevertheless, the dark in its very nature comes with a special set of inspirational skills. Think of the so-called dragon chimneys which can be found in the ink black oceanic depths of the Pacific, steaming hot water eruptions eerily standing tall and petrified within the blindfolded darkness of their icy cold water surroundings. Eerie yet uplifting in their awesomeness, ever nurturing the creative mind – Chiaroscuro style.
Obscurity and gloom are no strangers to the realm of art, casting inspirational shadows from the worlds of music to those of photography, poetry and fashion. A quickie pitch:
- Black in art: Picasso’s borderline obsessive use of black, white and grey – which came from his claim that color weakens, one with which I dare to disagree – highlights the formal structure and the autonomy of form inherent in his art.
- Black in music: Black Sabbath. The use of black across the alternative/goth/punk/grunge mood board as literally donned by Generation X, a classically rebellious peer group who during the 1990s did not want their success to be judged by their property or money. The darkness of the grunge scene and the music in itself appealed to — and became the ultimate reflection of — their communal views. A sense of gloom was emblematic in the late 20th century.
- Black in fashion: Marc Jacobs in 1992 became the first designer to bring grunge to the luxury platform and thus the cover of Vogue U.S. — one fashion stint that proved a deeply dark day in the Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington and Linda Evangelista accounts. Never we mind. All cringeworthy grungy looks aside, black conveys a myriad of contradictions, making it a fashion evergreen. Never you mind its slimming effects, black throughout the times has represented the embodiment of contrasting ideas such as “power and elegance, but also humility and submission, especially when worn by priests and others who bear a uniform” — as noted by The StyleCaster.
On a cultural level, too, this hotly debated “color” is susceptible to alternate interpretations. Despite being the epitome of elegance in fashion, black since the dawn of tailored man been the No.1 signifier for mourning in Western culture, yet the Japanese see black as a hue that represents seniority and experience. What of that Middle Kingdom point of view, then?
Though its shady palette of shadows may not cater to everyone’s taste, the fashionable fortitude of the color black remains undeniable.
Surprising as this may appear to our Western minds, the element of water in Chinese culture is not represented by the color blue, but by its black frenemy. The color black in Chinese culture stands for devastation, malice, disaster, cruelty, grief and suffering; it signifies bad fortune and must by no means ever be worn to positive events such as weddings. The Chinese word for black is ‘hei’ （黑）which stands for bad luck, wrongdoing plus illicitness.
In Beijing Opera terms, the use of a black (well, “monochrome” would be the bespoke word) mask means that the character is neutral. Black symbolizes roughness and fierceness, with the black mask either indicating a rough and bold character or an impartial and selfless personality. “Typical of the former are General Zhang Fei with a black cross butterfly face (of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms) and Li Kui (of Water Margin), and of the latter is Bao Gong (alias Bao Zheng), the semi-legendary fearless and impartial judge of the Song Dynasty (907-1279),” and I hereby quote Daphne Lei from her book “Alternative Chinese opera in the age of globalization”. Yep, we are backing things up with some academic evidence. (Well, truth be told, we managed to pick up a book.)
As we turn our gaze towards the current China Fashion scene, one immediately notices how black is very much omnipresent. Though its shady palette of shadows may not cater to everyone’s taste, its fashionable fortitude remains undeniable; with Chronic’s latest collection called “Blacklisted” here a prime case in point. Pampering that person — male and female alike — who bears within a broad-ranging personality, a “temperamental character” is essentially that which sums up the Chronic client.
Whereas tempers at times may flare and possibly get one blacklisted, the chronic mode fanciers usually have something they are proud of and live life in free and easy fashion. It is their stories you’ll want to read; it is their stories Chronic aims to tell. The Blacklisted Collection presents us with perceptive intuitional forms of materialized Visual Kei — a movement among Japanese musicians, characterized by the use of varying levels of makeup and flamboyant costumes, often coupled with androgynous aesthetics — which are reflected and replaced by a stronger sense of thought and touch. We at Temper for one are intrigued. As the deepest, darkest designer depths bear many a sultry secret, we aim to bring them to the surface: No blackouts allowed as Tang tells all!
Through combining the sense of touch with the element of design, we create a way for people to coexist with themselves in full harmony deep down inside.
The Temper Questions
Temper: Who is Tang Wei, Tiwill Tang, the menswear designer?
Tang: It is I, serving as the head and designer of menswear brand Chronic.
Temper: How important is color to you as a designer?
Tang: Color is something used to please the eye and bears within very strong emotional attachments. In design, then, the choice of color follows the trends at hand. More importantly, the color palette should befit the emotions presented by the staple theme of the overall brand design and specific collections.
Temper: About Blacklisted: As a designer, how “dark” are you?
Tang: I think “darkness” reflects a sharp and closed style. It’s somewhat of a contradiction which is in turn represents my personality and suits the emotions hidden deep down inside, in my heart. I try to capture it and present it in the temperament of clothing.
Temper: About Blacklisted: “Perceptive intuitional forms of materialized Visual Kei are reflected and replaced by stronger thinking and touch”. Please elaborate!
Tang: Seeing isn’t believing. Our visual experiences usually possess some type of prejudice and external disturbance. The “blacklisted” theme wants you to close your eyes and see through touch — like the blind. Therefore, feeling something on the inside coming in from the outside, you will find the subtle yet powerful energies people may neglect 99 per cent of the time. Braille is a way for the blind to learn about the world through the sense of touch. When incorporating the element of design into the process, we create a way for people to coexist with themselves. At that very point, people will uncover the most authentic and comfortable way to come into full harmony with themselves deep down inside.
Temper: What and who inspires you?
Tang: The experimental ways of Maison Martin Margiela and the art of Rei Kawakubo.
Temper: How important is “touch” in your design process?
Tang: Clothing functions as mankind’s second skin and the material of which clothes are made thus comes into close contact with our skin. Subsequently, the quality of fabric is very important. When choosing the materials to work with, I usually judge them by touch; with a flair for special and comfortable materials.
Temper: What, to you, is the spirit of fashion?
Temper: What’s your opinion on the China Fashion scene in 2017?
Tang: With the rise of design in China, there are many challenges to be faced and opportunities to be grasped. China Fashion doesn’t reflect one specific cultural item or event. Instead, it represents the contradiction and conflict between the nation’s previously internalized Eastern philosophical type of thinking and its current notion of a more open yet confusing, conflicted culture. Such contradiction and conflict are the underlying, hidden symbols of my designs.
Temper: What, to you, is the spirit of China Fashion?
Tang: It is changeable and harbors infinite potential.
Temper: What fashion item, according to you, should be forever blacklisted?
Tang: The copied stuff. Blacked out.
“Black is the hardest color in the world to get right — except for grey,” the great Diana Vreeland once ever so nonchalantly stated. Chronic and Tiwill Tang are getting it right; no confusion there.
Contact Tang via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tang on Weibo: @TIWILL_China; on Instagram: @tiwilltang_designer
All images come courtesy of Tiwill Tang.
Copyright@Temper Magazine 2017. All rights reserved
- Upping the ANTA: Niche Sportswear, the New Frontier In Athleisure Apparel - November 25, 2023
- China’s He Economy: What Men Want - November 18, 2023
- The Changing Role of Women in China: A Century in Clothing - November 3, 2023