Cheng-Huai Chuang’s first design was in an interesting medium: tissue paper. It was a dress for Barbies. He was seven.

Today he prefers the hard edge of leather and the soft sweep of chiffon to Kleenex. He’s graduated from Barbie dolls to celebrities like Debbie Harry, Jordana Brewster, and Zendaya. He came to the United States nine years ago knowing only his sister, then living in New York, and he couldn’t speak English. He moved from Taiwan to take design classes at FIT and Parsons The New School for Design, “all my notes were drawings — not a single word,” says Cheng. “I couldn’t write.”

Photographer - David Wang | Model - Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Photographer – David Wang | Model – Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

“There are no famous fashion designers in Taiwan,” says Cheng. People in Taiwan are more into American names printed on the band of their jeans, the leather of their bags and the soles of their shoes. Even his parents discouraged his design path. As pattern makers and owners of a high-end Taiwanese boutique, they knew the business. They knew how hard it is. Still, he came here at 18—knowing only a single person and no words—to practice his art in a city that understands it.

Cheng’s collections range from formidable and seductive to vulnerable and romantic. The Cheng woman is sexy, confident, the embodiment of the four main characters in his favorite show, Sex and the City. “They love life, they love going out. I like that kind of woman,” says Cheng.

Photographer - David Wang   Model - Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Photographer – David Wang | Model – Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Before he styled women, there were mannequins, and before mannequins his secret Barbies. “Other boys were into games. I was into being in the store and looking around at how people shop. How they put together the clothes,” he says. “That’s how I started getting a sense of fashion.”

Since then his parents’ store has transformed from trendy Asian designers to inexpensive wholesale. A product of the economy dip. It’s part of the reason Cheng’s parents didn’t believe he’d stay in New York. Or become a designer.

Photographer - David Wang | Model - Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Photographer – David Wang | Model – Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Nevertheless, in 2010, Cheng’s dad flew from Taiwan to New York City for his son’s first fashion show. He milled about with the fashion forerunners waiting for the new designer to debut his new collection at New York Fashion Week. “My dad was there. I was shaking,” says Cheng. The show changed his father’s opinion a bit, but when he went back to Taiwan for his sister’s wedding this month, he got some of the usual: “Maybe interior design?” and “Try something you can make money at.” But sprinkled with those practicalities, between the walk down the aisle and the wedding cake, his parents pull their phones out and proudly show friends and family photos of Cheng’s designs.

To contact Cheng-Huai Chuang for custom designs head over to http://www.chenghuaichuang.com/

Photographer - David Wang | Model - Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Photographer – David Wang | Model – Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Photographer - David Wang | Model - Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Photographer – David Wang | Model – Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Photographer - David Wang | Model - Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Photographer – David Wang | Model – Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Cheng 9

Photographer – David Wang | Model – Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Photographer - David Wang | Model - Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

Photographer – David Wang | Model – Oxana Moiseeva @ Muse Model Management

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