By Kevin Young
Women’s fashion designer Way Zen, celebrates Earth Day with her closet industry friends at her small boutique shop, which is crowded with plants and bright garments, only two blocks away from Herald Square. She serves her guests an “earthly” inspired menu with foods like purple cabbage and freshly grown almonds.
Zen’s infatuation with her Chinese culture and western culture combined with nature are the elements fuse together creating her brand JSong.
She studied fashion design at Seneca College in Toronto where she initially struggled to make ends meet as a college student. Zen supported herself by creating samples and selling sketches to local boutiques with the help of her friend who manufactured the samples at his factory.
“After different boutiques started to reach out to me, asking to sell my designs in their stores, I told my friend we need to start a company.” said Zen.
Given the success Zen garnered in the local Toronto market, she and her friend decided to move to New York, expanding their budding business; she loved her newfound city-life from experiencing culture diversity. The name “Jsong” is a creation of the factory’s initials “JS” combined with the words joy and song.
“JSong evokes the feelings of joy and song,” said Zen. “I wanted to make clothes that would bring joy and story from the wearer’s life, for them to express their essence.”
What makes JSong’s designs different from other brands is the fact that they are made of high-quality yet sustainable wool, linen, and cotton with a hint of polyester for that extra shine. –Zen’s close friend, Jean, a former editor for Red Book sported a floral print jacket that is “over 15-years-old” (a testament to JSong’s quality.)
The brand’s other distinctive feat is their embroidery process. The factory where Zen manufactured her clothes initially only specialized in embroidery and that process became adapted into Zen’s clothing. Zen wants the women who wear J Song to not only embrace their femininity but to tell visual stories to onlookers.
“Our embroidery is different than anyone else’s embroidery because ours has a story behind every piece,” said Zen, “For instance I have this dress that if you’re familiar with Chinese calligraphy you will see the symbol mei.” (美)
Before designing, Zen likes to go see art and looks at people walking on the street. She puts an emphasis on not overworking herself because when she’s tired she can’t be inspired. Zen never knows what could become the source of inspiration for her next design but she bears an open mind.
“Normally when I design I think about my surrounds,” said Zen “For example if I walk by a beautiful painting it can translate into clothes.”
Zen never thought she would be able to turn her love of fashion into a career but continues to be humble. She genuinely enjoys the process of designing outfits that tell stories of nature and spreading the message of joy and song.
“Fashion is a means to life for me and it helps me express myself,” said Zen. “At the same time it helps me inspire others.”