THE NEW FACES OF FUTUREWEAR: C2H4
December 20, 2022
One brand that is actively creating the future is C2H4, which takes a scientific approach towards design. Yixi Chen, the founder and director, was born in Shanghai. At the age of 17, she moved to Los Angeles to study theater and film at the University of California. Her passion for fashion design, however, prompted her to drop out and start a clothing line (CFDA).
In 2014, Chen launched her brand which is deeply rooted in chemistry. Hence the name, C2H4, the molecular formula for ethylene, which is a homophone for “Yixi” in Chinese. The label’s designers are called “chemists,” as they mix different substances (elements) to generate something new. In an interview with Goat, Chen mentioned that her influences include streetwear, fashion, movies, games, science comic books, and the visuals of punk. In an innovative twist, she doesn’t categorize what inspires her, but fuses what she enjoys. Within the studio, referred to as a “lab,” the chemists experiment with materials and methods that integrate fashion and technology (Gate 194). This exploration of “wearable devices” is in line with their belief that traditional garments will evolve to something more meaningful (Tube Showroom).
With an investigation-driven ethos, each campaign communicates a statement about the world in a unique aesthetic. Therefore, Chen’s original interest in film contributes to her storytelling with C2H4. In Spring/Summer 2018, they debuted at New York Fashion Week with the collection “Zero Gravity.” The theme was a spaceship voyaging from Earth to Mars in the year 2082 (c2h4losangeles.com). Jackets and pants were transformed from common garments to laboratory workwear using technical fabrics, pockets, straps, and utilitarian silhouettes. While Zero Gravity was a small collection, I believe it was a solid foundation for C2H4’s development of concepts and pieces.
C2H4 Spring/Summer 2018 “Zero Gravity” (C2H4).
What I enjoy most about C2H4’s collections are their use of technical and distressed fabrics, which resemble utopian and dystopian themes. Also, the brand mainly incorporates black, white, gray, and blue throughout their campaigns, which furthers the artificial-laboratory aesthetic.
The chemists at C2H4 are not only talented at designing apparel, but creating impressive graphics. In each collection, you’ll find compelling imagery that reinforces their futuristic concept.
C2H4 continues to grow by collaborating with larger brands, including Vans and Mastermind Japan. The Future Tennis Championship campaign was a fusion of Lacoste’s classic tennis identity with a retro futuristic twist.
In 2018, Yixi Chen expanded her vision by launching a partner label called Chemist Creations (Tube Showroom). The website decrees that they transform everything loved about 80s and 90s pop culture into the modern age. Moreover, the casual and athletic garments are less complex, but feature retro graphics. This concept can be connected to Chen’s admiration for American hip-hop, Western-American aesthetics, and her Chinese heritage (CFDA).
C2H4 is a model for pushing the boundaries of fashion and design. Rather than just producing clothes of a particular style, Yixi Chen founded the brand around an explorational philosophy. As the label continues to experiment with materials, technologies, and themes, I look forward to seeing what they do next.
Bray, Arthur. “Yixi Chen Interview With Greatest.” GOAT, [https://www.goat.com/editorial/yixi-chen].
“C2H4 18 Spring/Summer ‘Zero Gravity’ Campaign.” C2H4®, [https://www.c2h4losangeles.com/blogs/lookbooks/c2h4-18-spring-summer-post-apocalypse-campaign].
“C2H4 Los Angeles.” CFDA, [https://cfda.com/programs/designers/nyfw/nyfw-mens/designer/c2h4-los-angeles].
“C2H4.” TUBE Showroom, [https://www.tubeshowroom.com/en/brand/c2h4/].
“Information.” Chemist Creations, [https://www.chemist-creations.com/pages/information].