When Yixi Chen studied in Los Angeles, Yixi pioneered C2H4, and it underwent significant evolution. The brand draws inspiration from the laid-back fashion vibes of Los Angeles, fused with the refined elements of Asian fashion. Blending the essence of the past with futuristic trends defines the distinctive style inherent in C2H4.
Yixi consistently immersed herself in Retro aesthetics. Through Yixi’s other venture, Chemist Creations, it channels inspiration, particularly from the resurgence of 80s styles. “We don’t see ourselves as a conventional fashion brand. While traditional fashion houses may embrace varied concepts and aesthetics each season, our goal is steadfast consistency.” Yixi remarked.
What inspired to create your own brands C2H4 and Chemist Creations initially?
Yixi Chen: We initiated our journey as a streetwear brand while I was studying in Los Angeles. However, the brand has undergone significant transformations since its inception. We’ve navigated through various stages, evolving our positioning and aesthetic considerably. Currently, C2H4 encapsulates our vision, drawing inspiration primarily from the space age aesthetic prevalent from the 1940s to the 1970s.
We are inspired particularly by the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. This period sparked innovation in industrial and architectural design, fonts, and elements like car design. Our aesthetic, which we term “Future City Uniform,” aims to blend the imaginative future concepts of the past with contemporary apparel.
Influenced by my experiences in school and living in LA, our style also incorporates elements of West Coast aesthetics. Being from China, I fuse Asian fashion sensibilities with the laid-back style prevalent in LA. The result is a fusion of cultures, where we might combine a hoodie with a blazer and jeans, capturing the essence of both casual LA and more formal Asian fashion.
Launched in 2019, Chemist Creations delves into the rich tapestry of Asian and American pop culture from the 80s and 90s. Growing up with the pop culture especially Japanese and Taiwanese anime, music, TV shows has significantly influenced our creative direction, making it a multi-faceted project with cultural familiarity to Gen Y and Gen Z audiences.
Chemist Creations is a brand more focused on ’80s and ’90s pop culture. It’s heavily influenced by Taiwan, Japan, and also America, as Japanese pop culture draws from American influences too. So, yeah, but especially influenced by that time period of ’80s and ’90s pop culture. Our goal for Chemist Creations is not to create anything new. It’s more about wanting to rise above it all—creating an experience through our products, visuals, and perhaps narratives in the future. Everything we do aims to create a bubble, immersing people so that every time you enter our space, it acts like a time machine, allowing you to experience the past.
So, we’re not doing anything creative in the sense of inventing entirely new things for Chemist Creations. Instead, we carefully select and refine elements that have existed before and curate a splice of “the past” for our audience.
Nana: I’m impressed that your designs also influenced by Japanese culture!
Yixi Chen: In our generation, we are all engaged with Japanese culture as we were growing up. At that time, it felt like everyone in Asia was tuned in to and influenced a lot by Japanese music, Tv shows, games and so on. And now in 2020s of course we are trying to translate all the highlights that I’ve absorbed in the past into a localized “language” for our Chinese customers, and sometimes I find it very interesting! So I guess in that sense, we ARE creating something new! (laugh)
How do you discover inspiration, and what is your process for conceptualizing each collection?
Yixi Chen: I enjoy watching various videos and movies, and I often document ideas that come to mind during my travels over a few months. I review what I’ve written and select the ideas that I believe will work well in structuring my work and products.
And we don’t consider ourselves a typical fashion brand since traditional fashion brands may adopt different concepts and aesthetics each season, we aim for consistency.
Occasionally, we introduce new themes or inspirations for a collection, drawing from various sources like celebrity styles from the ’90s—researching how icons such as Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Johnny Depp dressed during that era. We strive to capture the essence of those styles for and selecting pieces that resonate with the past.
Developing a new style that seamlessly combines various elements is challenging. We are in the process of adjusting and finding the optimal balance between different styles—American, Asian, and even space age. It’s a nuanced task to harmonize these diverse influences, and we continue to explore the best way to blend them together effectively.
Beyond your role as a designer, you’re also active as an artist. Could you share some of your favorite Asian artists or bands with our readers?
Yixi Chen: To be frank, it’s challenging for us to navigate the current economic landscape. Everywhere you go, people are discussing the downturn in the economy, and it’s a universal concern. We’re actively exploring what could work as a sustainable business strategy during these tough times, which I believe is a shared challenge for many.
Expressing gratitude to everyone worldwide, I acknowledge the prevailing notion that the economy is not performing well. We are all in this together, grappling with the uncertainties. In Asia, especially in China, there seems to be a shift towards supporting local brands. This trend gained momentum after COVID-19, possibly due to increased accessibility and affordability of local products.
Do you have any advice for our readers for seeking to find a way to start their own brand or career in a fashion industry or for Asians who want to stand out in the fashion industry?
Yixi Chen: I believe that setting clear goals is crucial, especially when embarking on the journey of starting a brand. People initiate this venture with diverse objectives, and it’s essential to be explicit about why you’re establishing a brand and what you aim to achieve. Not every desire can be fulfilled daily.
For instance, if your primary goal in creating the brand is to serve as an expression of yourself and to make it the coolest brand globally, you’ll inevitably need to make sacrifices. There might be tempting business opportunities that promise significant financial gains but could potentially harm the brand image. In such cases, decisions must align with your overarching goals. Without a well-defined goal and priorities, decision-making becomes confusing.
Many individuals lack a clear vision, and when faced with choices, they can make decisions that lead to confusion for both themselves and their customers, impacting the brand image negatively. It’s not about right or wrong, better or worse—it’s about aligning your actions with your aspirations.
Whether your focus is on becoming a large business or prioritizing profit, the approach to designing and developing products differs significantly. The key is recognizing the distinction between goals, understanding that cost-effectiveness may take precedence in one scenario, while the pursuit of creating the best product ever requires a different approach. Clarity in goals remains the most important aspect.
Align your actions with your aspirations.
Text by Yiyao Zhang