BARQUE designer Gilbert Chen brings his background in architecture to menswear

GILBERT CHEN

Founder and Designer of BARQUE, New York City

Why I love him: When menswear can seem formulaic and uninteresting, Gilbert brings something extra to the table. His clothes reflect the care he takes in designing them and they feel more complete and individualized than mass market menswear.

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When was the first time you noticed that fashion was something someone created rather than just something you bought and put on?

I was an architecture major in college, so that was the first time I really started to think about design in general. Around that time, I would walk around the mall in Texas and I realized I didn’t like the things I saw and I thought maybe I could design clothes. I got more interested in fashion as I browsed through the internet. Since I was mainly looking at the designs on the runway, I was considering fashion design like a fine art but when I went to Parsons, that’s when I started to understand the whole other aspect of commercial fashion design. I took a few classes and decided that I would want to be a fashion designer instead of an architect.

How did Parsons take your architectural eye and translate that to garment construction?

I learned most of the fashion design skills at Parsons, including draping, pattern making and designing.  Then I went on working for a few companies in New York.

When you begin designing new garments, what is the starting point for you? Designing on paper, starting with a fabric you want to work with, etc?

I usually start with fabrics and based on the fabric’s characteristics, I will create the silhouette or style accordingly.  Also, I work with a consistent color palette, so the collection looks more cohesive overall.  When I look for the fabrics, I will take color, texture, construction, pattern and print in mind.  This way, the collection will have more dimensions to it.

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Designer Gilbert Chen

There’s a lot of competition out there. How do you separate yourself from the pack?

Focus on what you are good at; it could be a particular look or a specific category of clothing or maybe for a specific clientele. Once you know what the market likes, focus on a few key signature items that will set you aside with the competition. For example, the best print shirt collection or the best quality Henley or best shorts in the market. Have a focused point of view and a few unique products are the keys to be successful in today’s competitive world.

The internet has changed the fashion industry in numerous ways. How have you utilized it and social media to get your work and your brand to a larger audience?

We have been working extensively on Instagram and Facebook.  Social media has played an important role in fashion industry in the past few years. This is a way to get your brand to a larger audience and increase the brand awareness.  Online magazine and blogs have replaced the print magazines and these days, most of people get updated information and news through social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Customers or retailers find your brand on these [platforms] and this will help you to grow.

Fashion blogs and style bloggers are front row at Fashion Week, something that didn’t happen ten years ago. Ten years from now, what do you hope the fashion industry looks like/is headed?

I think everything will become digital in 10 years. The fashion shows will be broadcast directly online, so everyone can see the show as if they are sitting at the front row.  Purchasing can be done online and the brand will do most of the communications digitally – each brand will have their own phone app. The app will be like a store and you can browse through the collection as if you are in a physical store.

What was it like the first time you saw someone wearing your designs in real life?

It was surreal.  I couldn’t believe it the first time I saw someone wearing my designs on the street. I was delighted and excited, full of joy. A design will take 3-6 months to develop and produce before it arrives the market, so when I saw my “baby” worn by someone on the street, it was just a moment of happiness. Nothing else can describe that feeling. Every once a while, I get emails from a customer telling me how much he likes the brand. This is the best present ever and truly is the inspiration that keeps me going.

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FAST FASHION FACTS

My aesthetic in five words: Modern interpretation of the classics.
My clients are… the guys who are looking for something special, but not over the top.  It’s traditional, but w/ a little bit of fashion elements in the design or in the fabrication.
My dream client is… the average Joe, not for a particular celebrity or public figure.  I feel accomplished when I see my design on the street or in the bar.  It’s a compliment for me when I know people wear my designs and they feel better about themselves.

For more on Gilbert and to get your hands on some BARQUE, head over to www.barquenewyork.com!

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