Take a look back to your childhood, I’ll guarantee a piece of clothing stands out. The one piece perhaps that showed you how much fun fashion can be, and set off a life long love affair with it. Mine was a Petit Bateau raincoat, and despite different sizes and colours throughout my life, none has given me the same satisfaction of wearing the first one. It’s my fashionable nostalgia.
Almost every designer and artist takes inspiration from their childhood at some point in their career. Alexander McQueen often drew upon his hardscrabble childhood to influence his collections, and Jeremy Scott constantly references childhood with his use of SpongeBob, teddy bears and Star Wars for Moschino. However, no one uses childhood as a muse quite like Taiwanese fashion designer Shueh Jen-Fang for her brand Jenny Fax.
Set up in 2011, Jenny Fax stood out from the crowd right from its inception. With carefully crafted techniques and an extraordinary palette of colours and materials, Jen-Fang gives her pieces a unique sense of bizarre beauty, as if coming straight from a child’s imagination. Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of every Jenny Fax collection are the references to Cabbage Patch Kids. In 2012 it was models clutching dolls on the runway; 2016 gave us brightly coloured Cabbage Patch faces printed on t-shirts; and most recently we were shown a bright pink Cabbage Patch hand muff. It’s a genuinely eerie way of bringing a designer’s personality to a collection.
Aside from the creepy doll similarities, each of Jen-Fang’s collections is completely unique. Spring/Summer 2012 saw inspiration from school, delivered in a collection that was all about uniforms and prom queens. With pleated skirts, plain white shirts and colour-tastic manga images, the show presented the semblance of a love child of Disney and St Trinians.
2014’s indie-goth collection served up a concoction of neon coloured dresses and trousers contrasted with simple monochrome bralets, accented with simply-patterned black lace over dresses and capes. This collection also included hand-drawn manga prints on t-shirts, adding to the childlike nature of Jenny Fax clothing.
Fast forward to A/W ’18, and Jenny Fax takes a turn in a more sophisticated direction. Schoolgirl pleats have been discarded for pencil skirts and plain white shirts have given way for metallics to take centre stage. This turn to a more traditional womenswear leaves the bizarre aspect to take place in the accessories. Tiny shoes are stuck to the models’ feet whilst plastic hands hang eerily from their ears. Jen-Fang has proven reassuringly that she can remain true to her original take on fashion, even when she’s going in a more stereotypical direction.
Still in its infancy in fashion terms, Jenny Fax has already shown itself as a brand to complete on the world’s stage. With or without childhood attachment, I for one cannot wait to see what they have in store for Tokyo Fashion Week this month.