Edi­son Chen

Co-founder of Emo­tion­ally Un­avail­able, ac­tor, mu­si­cian, pro­ducer, fashion de­signer and en­tre­pre­neur, 37

Esquire (Singapore) - - Contents -

Yeah, that guy.

The name EU (Emo­tion­ally Un­avail­able) speaks vol­umes and res­onates with the youth. There are mo­ments when you need some alone time. It’s also a re­flec­tion of re­la­tion­ships too. Peo­ple jump in and out of re­la­tion­ships, or even if they are in one, they’re not re­ally in it. That’s how EU started.

EU [for us] is a nar­ra­tive on culture, driven by art and con­ver­sa­tion. It’s about how we feel. It’s more than fashion.

After break­ing up with a girl­friend, I re­mem­ber telling [KB Lee, for­mer de­signer of UNDFTD], “I am emo­tion­ally un­avail­able right now.” But I said I was phys­i­cally present too.

It’s all about the feel­ings that we ex­pe­ri­ence daily. It comes or­gan­i­cally and may end up as the in­spi­ra­tion for our next T-shirt.

We have to think ahead when work­ing in the fashion in­dus­try. It’s re­fresh­ing for us to drop some­thing next week or even to­mor­row. It’s a dif­fer­ent way of mak­ing clothes. Why wait for the fu­ture?

Hip-hop dom­i­nated the early years of our [Lee and Chen] lives. But now, art is the dom­i­nant in­spir­ing fac­tor for us. We go to art mu­se­ums, gallery shows and stu­dio vis­its, and that’s where we draw most of our creative en­ergy from. It’s a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive from hip-hop.

The la­bel is not on the fashion cal­en­dar. That’s the most glar­ing as­pect for me. With the cal­en­dar, there’s stress and it comes with dead­lines [lead­ing to rushed work]. When you rush some­thing, the end prod­uct isn’t al­ways the de­sired out­come. The sat­is­fac­tion and the en­joy­ment of work­ing a project that takes two years? We’re fine with that as it’s open and free.

I have ADHD [at­ten­tion-deficit/hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der] and there was an in­stance where I opened a book [at the Ready­made show­room] and saw The Cre­ation of Adam. I asked [the store crew] if they knew the mean­ing be­hind the paint­ing. They said it’s di­vine in­ter­ven­tion, where God gave man knowl­edge. If you look at this paint­ing care­fully, you’ll see God, and he’s en­veloped by a shape, and that shape is sup­pos­edly a brain. My in­ter­pre­ta­tion of it is that your in­ner self al­ready has the up­per be­ing, which is in the brain.

There’s some­thing deeper within the art form that’s try­ing to speak to you. We’re try­ing to de­liver that mes­sage. That’s why I’ve been push­ing arts and culture in the past five years be­cause I want the youth to not only be in­flu­enced by club life or hip-hop culture. There has to be a mo­ment when we break away from that and move for­ward. And I feel art is that mes­sage.

Hav­ing art printed on a post­card is de­val­u­at­ing. There’s a creative mind and force be­hind ev­ery art­work. So, if a gift shop can have a key­chain or a pen­cil or a post­card box of it, why can’t we do some­thing sim­i­lar too? We’re pay­ing ode to the art; we’re not de­fil­ing it. We’re try­ing to push art and help pro­mote it. My style has def­i­nitely changed over the years. I wear women’s clothes now. Not in a weird way. I like to wear Acne women’s pieces and Cé­line. I like to look at some Chanel pieces and be able to wear them. My sense of fashion has broad­ened by at­tend­ing dif­fer­ent fashion shows and speak­ing to de­sign­ers. Design in fashion is a craft. Although there are gen­der-spe­cific pieces, this [stereo­type] is over now. It’s about cross-gen­der and flu­id­ity.

I used to help a brand [Hood by Air], and its aes­thetic is an­drog­y­nous. Work­ing with them ac­tu­ally opened my eyes. Peo­ple, es­pe­cially now in the 2000s, have opened their minds to ac­cept­ing dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple in many ways. I too have opened my mind in the process. When I go to Cé­line, I can find some­thing that I like and wear it. Peo­ple in LA, who are more con­ser­va­tive about fashion, say that I have a les­bian style. I think that’s cool, I don’t mind.

The world has be­come smaller so find­ing some­thing that you can call your own is im­por­tant. Some­thing that you can take own­er­ship of and say, this rep­re­sents me.

Ev­ery­body has a dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tion of [our logo tee]. The girls think it’s cute and amaz­ing, and the guys can feel that pain from the heart. Some peo­ple come up to me and say it’s a ball sac. In a way, it does look like a ball sac. I think when a logo evokes an emo­tion, it’s strong and pow­er­ful. To me, that has to be the one. Bleed­ing heart? It’s open to any­one’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

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