When we think of the Nordic countries, what springs to mind are breathtaking landscapes, progressive values, life satisfaction, and super-stylish design. These are all qualities that Denmark has in spades, and likely helped the lively and youthful harbor city of Aarhus (aka the City of Smiles) win the European Capital of Culture 2017.
One of the most anticipated events forming part of this landmark year was a celebration of Denmark’s progressive design philosophy: Aarhus Walks on Water (AWOW). This buzzy weekend of activities explored the intersection of fashion and technology, whose highlight was a spectacular floating runway that extended into the harbor. It provided the dazzling setting for the AWOW Fashion Show and Talent Award 2017 finale on September 16, at which Taiwanese designer Yiyu Chen took first prize with her crystallized collection.
Chen is passionate about experimental design, with a particular focus on wearable tech—it’s what drew her to respond to the challenge set by AWOW. As a contestant she was paired with Danish clothing label VRS Fashion, with a brief to reinterpret existing pieces in its collection with an added tech element. Her competition entry combined her interest in nature, whimsy and fantasy with VRS’s affordable, wearable aesthetic. The jury was especially impressed with how she used light as an embellishment, integrating LEDs with Swarovski crystals as part of the patterning on fabrics. Preben Mejer, jury member and founder of the technology advisory institute Radr, described it as “…elegant both in terms of design and technology. In 20 years of wearable tech, today is the first time we’ve been able to see how beautiful it can be when it all comes together.”
Yiyu Chen’s collection used the light-filled crystals to bring the eyes in a dramatic owl print to life and to echo sparkling water effects, as well as the electrifying beauty of our oceans’ glowing jellyfish. Set against a backdrop of digital façade projections, and trailing out over the dark and shimmering evening sea, the outcome was mesmerizing—miraculous, even.
On the night, Chen left with a prize of €10,000. Her collaboration with VRS saw off competitors from Hungary, Finland, Latvia, South Korea, Romania, Ukraine and Slovakia, who had teamed up with Danish brands such as JBS Textile Group, CULTURE, LauRie, LEGO Wear, KAFFE, Cream and Karen by Simonsen. We think you’ll be hearing more about this emerging talent—keep your fashion radar tuned to Yiyu Chen.
Photography by Bolin Lo