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A Fashion Alchemist: Barbara Xia and Her Beijing-Based Archemy Studios.

How do we combine the right reactive elements? The chemistry that is fashion. Feel the burn!

This brand name just evokes thoughts of Potassium Chlorate mixed with gummy bears – or that could simply be just me, though. Yet I opt to stick with the chemistry theme this time, as it is one science that can apply itself to the world of design – in both the literal and figurative sense. In the creative quest for favorable fashion combustion, one dutifully asks… How do we combine the right reactive elements?

China-born, Canada-raised American passport holder Barbara Xia is a tried ‘n true mode pioneer who founded clean-styled beijing-based Archemy Studios.

Given famed chemist Martyn Poliakoff, together with his physicist colleague Einstein, donned some seriously coiffed hair, I’d say these chem lab rats putting the “Mad Scientist” look on the map, are in fact fashion aficionados avant-la-lettre. Nevertheless, Chinese born, Canadian raised American citizen Barbara Xia is a true ‘n tried mode pioneer who founded Archemy Studios, a clean-styled Beijing-based brand with understated updates and details so the focus is always on the woman wearing the label, not the label itself.

First, a little chem SAT basics for all you tasty trending ones out there. The world of fashion and the science of chemistry are deeply intertwined through the highly specialized field that is textile chemistry. We can segment the field into three ruched areas: Dyeing and finishing chemistry, fiber and polymer chemistry, and a fresh area that converges with materials science and enmeshes the merger of various textile materials. On a “did you know” level, then, ever since the rise of polymeric synthetic fibers within today’s textile biz, the field includes many chemists who are trained in polymer chemistry, with polymers being “large molecules consisting of chains or rings of linked monomer units, usually characterized by high melting and boiling points”. Thank you, Chemicool, but I think I’ll stick to fashion.

The knowledge of fibers, both natural and synthetic, is one Xia certainly possesses. On the racks, this knowhow translates into garments ranging from fitted, boxed, bib and wing blouses to V-strap tunics and tanks. All resonating the brand’s emphasis on versatile simplification and essentials made to last the ride. Archemy may not have not worked with the sustainable fabrics formula to date, but that does feature on the near future design agenda. Temper sits down with Xia and makes it Bunsen burner hot for this hot-hip-happening designer. Let’s bound together that hydrogen and oxygen in a ratio of 2:1 — guess who really got her chem “copypaste” on — and create an explosive reaction: Xia, go ahead and make it spark!

The design philosophy of Archemy resonates with my practice of both fashionable simplification and the design essentials made to stick around.

Temper: Who is Barbara Xia – on a personal level?

Xia: “My background is as diverse as my interests, the combination of which is reflected in my taste across various ‘style genres’ and my tendency to collect a spectrum of pieces and separates. In other words, fashion hoarding of sorts. As my life became increasingly on-the-go, I learned to de-clutter my belongings, a huge chunk of that being my wardrobe, just holding on to the bare essentials that I absolutely loved. These pieces were made with care and were most versatile in terms of style. The design philosophy of Archemy resonates with my practice of both fashionable simplification and the design essentials made to stick around. It’s made for the woman who appreciates quality, is independent, often on the go and looks great doing so.”

Temper: What is the underlying Archemy concept? 

Xia: “The concept of Archemy Studios is one of unassuming beauty and making women look and feel great. The idea is to keep the styles clean with understated updates and details so that the focus is always kept on the woman wearing them. They serve as a medium for her individual essence to exude itself to the fullest. The inspiration for these pieces comes in all shapes and forms. With a focus on creating clothes that are versatile – i.e. appropriate for the office, meetings, evening soirees and your days off — a lot of inspiration stems from making pieces that fit well into the client’s various activities. My creative process is a sponge of my experiences and comes in many forms, such as travel, coming across great fabrics, observing artists works, architecture, and more, whichever feels right at the moment.”

The cultural gap is decreasing with the increase in social media platforms and China’s rapidly growing middle class.

Temper: Does China carry a red thread through your designs?

Xia: “I tend to focus on a universal view of the young working professional in an urban environment. She could be working in a corporate position, freelancing her skills and talents, be an entrepreneur or a mix of all the above! She is a multi-faceted woman with various interests and hobbies – off the beaten career path. The cultural gap is decreasing with the increase in social media platforms and China’s rapidly growing middle class. Many are no longer bound by local trends alone.”

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Temper: Any favorite China Fashion designers, styles or brands anno 2016? What are your hopes for Archemy in this trending realm?

Xia: “Beijing has been and still is changing very quickly and the fashion scene is no exception. With the prominence of social media in China’s factual landscape and the growing number of travelers in- and outbound of Beijing, both the cultural and fashionable gaps are closing in. Innovation increasingly sprouts from within its borders and I believe this will translate well into the sense of expressing individuality through your day-to-day ensembles. I personally like clean, tailored and figure-flattering looks that fluctuate between the modern feminine and androgynous vibes. Once in a while, I do love going for a fun print and crazy cut. My goals for Archemy are to continue creating pieces that women look and feel great in.” The Archemy vision continues!

Though the term alchemist refers to a sorceress rather than a fashion-test-tube maker ‘n shaker, putting on the right outfit can work magic on your (sartorial) self-confidence. The chemistry that is fashion. Feel the burn!



Photos: Archemy Studios.

Instagram: @archemystudios

Facebook: Archemy Studios.

Shop Archemy Studios right here!