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Design Atelier paves a way for Taiwan's textile industry

Friday, December 30, 2011
By Lydia Lin, Supplement Writer


To push for the transformation of Taiwan's textile industry and make up for the insufficient parts in the clothing production line, the Industrial Development Bureau, Ministry of Economic Affairs (經濟部工業局) worked with Taiwan Textile Federation (TTF, 中華民國紡織業拓展會) for a year to launch the Design Atelier (台北服飾快速設計打樣中心) and Accessory Atelier (配飾設計打樣中心), with the aim to bring the industry onto a fast track, accelerating the process from design to product.

To become more competitive in the global garment circle, Taiwan's textile industry has to be able to make quick responses to fashion trends, and meanwhile produce quality products. Design Atelier is meant to help garment manufacturers who don't have enough resource to upgrade their equipment facing the new challenges in our times.

Design Atelier features a wide array of services from databases of body shapes, clothing sizes and styles to 3D body camera and computer programs to simulate how clothes look like when they are worn by real people. These are some cutting-edge technologies a typical garment manufacturer doesn't have at his or her own factories.

In addition, the intelligent sampling equipment Design Atelier provides allow designers to quickly produce a sample in smaller quantities, a big difference from the old times when making a sample takes longer time and not cost-effective if only to make a few samples.

Design Atelier Helps Loki Expand

Ask avid skiers and snowboarders what “Loki” means to them and chances are, their enthusiastic reactions will have little to do with Norse mythology.

Instead, they will likely rave about Loki Gear, the pioneer of high-tech, versatile outerwear with built-in accessories that make packing for a ski trip getaway that much easier.

Like the Nordic shape-shifting god of mischief after whom it was named, the outwear brand features jackets with built-in face shields and mitts, both of which are completely hidden until needed. An insular jacket can be stuffed and folded into a little backpack, transformer-style. The strides of such innovative designs have forced the people at Loki to speedily patent every standout product before imitators get any ideas.

According to Joseph Hsieh (謝卓穎), manager of Loki China (樂活城戶外用品有限公司), Loki has even bigger plans to compete with the most well-known outerwear staples. Think The North Face and Patagonia. For the time being, the brand is content with rolling out its first line suitable for warm weather.

More interestingly, Loki's first Spring/Summer line, with its impending local debut in 2012, is produced here in Taiwan with the assistance of the TTF. Unbeknownst to most of the public, the inextricable link between the ski-slope blazing Loki Gear and snow-deprived Taiwan has long been a great source of MIT (Made in Taiwan) pride.

“The reason Loki can exist is because of Taiwan,” Hsieh said, emphasizing that for the past 20 years, Taiwan textiles and design have provided the high-quality and high-tech materials that help uphold the brand's prestige. A prime example is the lightweight and flexible fiber “Thinsulate Flex Insulation Type F--,” which provides warmth and insulation in damp conditions.

All this can be traced to the Taiwan Textile Federation (TTF,中華民國紡織業拓展會), whose Design Atelier (台北服飾快速設計打樣中心) helped create the new Loki spring line featuring fashion-forward sportswear in the form of sleek T-shirts made with breathable fabrics.

In addition to offering consultation on market niche, brand style, color planning and proofing, the TTF assisted Loki in design and prototyping; it also liaised between designers and suppliers of fabric and other materials.

Members of the Design Atelier describe the collaboration as one based on general instruction and understanding key brand concepts. Creative execution, on the other hand, is theirs to explore; “Loki colors” are tweaked by designers who want to ensure that the palette follows runway trends to appeal to the fashion-conscious masses. Further, the spring/summer line is marketed specifically in Asia and tailored for Taiwan's tropical climate.

While business in Japan and South Korea are burgeoning, Hsieh did reveal that Loki is taking its expansion in mainland China — a huge market with numerous locales for winter sports — very “slowly and cautiously.”

Atelier Assists Designer Lu --ue-zheng

Design Atelier assists the upcoming designers at the Fashion Institute of Taipei (西園29服飾創作基地), commercializing avant-garde ideas into products. For example, the TTF jointly launched apparels in collaboration with designer Lu --ue-zheng (呂學政) and 3M. After persistent research and development on waterproof features and adhesive techniques, the Atelier and Lu's foray from aesthetic design to functional design yielded the warm, robust, comfortable and flattering “3M unisex jacket,” launched to wide professional and public acclaim.

Recognized domestically as a multi-award winning designer (recipient of the Taiwan Fashion Award and the Taiwan Sin Sa Award to name a few), Lu now boasts his own label “Lu --ue Zheng,” with collections for both men and women. The designer was among the few featured prominently at the TTF-organized 2011 Taipei IN Style (台北魅力國際服裝服飾品牌展) in late October.

Lu describes his design aesthetic as “a fusion of East meets West or the deconstruction of oriental elements with minimalist influence” that “reflects the philosophy of architecture.” A layman translation would depict his clothes as modern and structural garments embellished with a subtle Asian twist.

“Taiwan has its own lifestyle; it is important to show it in its own way,” he said.

The result is a combination of new textiles and fibers and a modernization of traditional Chinese raiment. Lu displays a recent piece — a black, well-structured zip-up jacket with a rounded Mandarin collar complete with red trim.

“At first glance, you think this is a regular jacket; but the rounded edges and oval shapes are very organic and Asian. The red is also a traditional Chinese color,” he explained.

It is not always easy to sell his ideas, especially in Taiwan. On top of his own label, Lu often collaborates with different companies, designing brand aesthetics very different from his own. He finds sharing new ideas and bringing innovation to the mass market a very “Taiwan-specific challenge.”

“I would have to try to explain and convince collaborating partners of my aesthetic, defend my design and help them understand that both form and function are very important to me.”

As a prime example, the black jacket zips up right below the throat without any fear of nipping the skin on the neck. The stand-up collar, on the other hand, helps shield against the cold on windy days.

To develop his own label, Lu founded 10-Up Design (十上整合設計有限公司) and has diversified his brand with accessories and other fashion-related products. He is not interested in becoming a popular, mass-market brand but hopes his clothes appeals to people who are introspective and understand what his clothes are trying to represent.

Lu admitted that he gets “overwhelmed with the management and business side of the industry” and ultimately would like to have a design partner or develop an entire team.

In the meantime, he has already completed much on his own, and his fashion shows (Body Bloom, The Heroes, Function Strike Fashion) feature his versatility beyond Hakka motifs. In Function Strike Fashion collection, Lu's adeptness at color-blocking and keen interest in architectural philosophy is highly evident.

“The fashion environment in Taiwan is changing,” he said. “I believe there is an emerging sense that fashion should reflect culture and not just mimic trends.” ■

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