Friday, 6 April 2012

Interview with Chen Man - Love & Water M.A.C Collection

I've been super quiet lately, so massive apologies. But before you get too angry at me, it's all for a good cause! As part of my final major project for university I've been creating my own magazine, ALL from scratch, alllll by myself (cue Bridget Jones moment...). I was lucky enough to get an interview with Chen Man, a hugely successful Chinese fashion photographer who has recently collaborated with M.A.C Cosmetics to produce a wonderful beauty collection - which is available now. I don't want to give away too much, so here it is!


It’s not often that we hear of young, talented creatives skyrocketing into success so early on into their careers, and that’s what sets Chen Man apart from the rest in her division. While studying Photography as Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Chen Man had already contributed cover images to Shanghai-based fashion magazine Vision two years ahead of her graduation; from that point, she was destined for great things. It all seems to have started very quickly for the young, Chinese fashion photographer. She broke boundaries with her sequences of cover images for Chinese avant-garde magazine, ‘Vision’; China had never seen anything similar to this before. Her covers were heavily artistic, and she played upon the use of 3D image rendering to create glossy, innovative and experimental photography, an idea that had not been widely used at this time, especially in her native China. She set tongues wagging and transformed the Chinese way of perceiving life, beauty and culture through photography, and before long her work was of great popular demand. She had soon racked up a resume to be more than proud of, shooting editorials for the likes of Chinese Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and ELLE as well as campaigns for Nike and Adidas. This is how Chen Man has become one of China’s most celebrated names in the industry.

It’s late February when we speak, and it’s safe to say that Chen has recently hit a career peak. She has recently shot a quartet of covers for i-D magazine to celebrate the diversity of Chinese beauty, and of course the Chinese New Year, The Year of the Dragon. But she doesn’t stop there, it has recently been announced that Chen is launching a collaborative beauty collection with M.A.C Cosmetics, titled ‘Love and Water’ to be released in spring. The collection consists of just about everything a woman may need in her make up bag, from eye shadows, pigments, lipsticks and glosses to mascara and nail lacquers, the collection is centered around hues of cotton candy pinks and bold cobalt blues. “My favourite product from the collection has to be the mineralized eye shadow. The color and shape of the eye shadow looks like a yin-yang imprint, similar to that seen in Taoism, I feel this is something which has life to it.” Chen speaks of the M.A.C make up collection, “It’s inspired by and named after love and water; it comes from ancient Chinese’ ideology - harmony between man and nature. Love is conscious but invisible; water is material and tangible; and these are two main elements of the origin of life. Pink represents love and the West; blue represents water and the East.” Chen has an unparalleled take on life and the earth; it’s amazingly refreshing to hear someone speak so highly of the World that we all live on. As so many in the creative industries are rushing to make decisions on not so important issues, Chen Man is highly spiritual, and all about taking care of the environment and striving to make the world a better place. Speaking to Chen is much comparable to a breath of fresh air, selfless and intelligent in her answers, she brings you right back down to earth again. Noting “life itself“ as her main inspiration for all of her work, she also speaks of other influences close to her heart, “I love traditional Chinese philosophy and culture; my works are based on Chinese culture, adapted by Western techniques. They offer a visual combination of contemporary international aesthetics and local cultural sensibilities, achieved with “software” from the ancient Chinese culture, “hardware” from modern Western culture.” This is a subject that has no doubt heavily influenced her M.A.C project. When asked about her thoughts on collaborations as a whole, specifically those that she feels may not have worked so well, Chen coyly answers, “I love the feeling of collaborations and I’m not a difficult person, Chinese women are like water. Usually there is no ‘bad’ collaboration. We have already been spoiled by modern technology, so I don’t really like anything that’s not eco-friendly.

So what’s next for Chen? As her past career highlights are already incredibly astonishing, we can only hope that there will be much more ahead. Ecstatic from her current career highs, Chen takes a moment and sighs, “I want to work with more elderly, listen to their stories, and work with more Chinese medicine masters, Taoist and Buddhist masters.” She carries on to say, “I want to work on traditional Chinese culture, the part that’s useful to world’s environmental protection, for balance between our heart and the outside world, using vision from the spoiled material civilization, to achieve visual exposition of the modern languages.” With her footprint firmly marked on the industry, it seems the only way is up for Chen Man. With some admirable fashion moments already under her belt, Chen’s spirits are high for future collaborations. As she’s conquered the beauty scene by working alongside her most admired make up brand, Chen explains that she would enjoy a turn in collaborating with a fashion designer next, but who with? “I don’t have a real preference. Everyone in fashion is a respected master, from the tailor shop masters around the street corner to the masters at fashion weeks. But masters can fail, just as ordinary people can make success.”