Exclusive: Studio Visit With Ce Ce Chin of 80%20

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Crisp, clean, and spacious are just some of the words you could use to describe the midtown studio of designer Ce Ce Chin. The President and Creative Director of 80%20 is a rising talent in the shoe industry with a cult following that spans across the country. Ironic, as her Spring 2010 line was inspired by Smithereens, Susan Seidelman’s ’80s cult classic about New York’s burgeoning punk scene. “Perhaps these days are looking like those — tough economics, but good for creative spirit (only the strong survive),” she has said. “Empty storefronts mean possibility to me.”

It’s hard to find someone who is more calm, collected, or passionate about what they design and produce; we think it has something to do with the gorgeous studio that Ce Ce and her team call home. White washed walls, enormous windows, and a daily view of midtown Manhattan’s skyline are just a few of the things that you notice upon entering the space. A table is meticulously organized with the samples from Spring 2010 as well as a new diffusion line, Ce Ce Chin, which is set to launch next year.

“I was inspired by the Art Nouveau designers Alphonse Mucha and Rene Lalique,” Chin has explained. “The heels on the Ce Ce Chin collection were inspired by perfume bottles —  faceted crystal with gold hardware. I also researched a lot of television perfume ads in the 1970s. I love the following from Jontue, Chanel No. 5, and Detchema.”

Chin’s company has slowly evolved over the last five years, starting with a simple concept of spray-painted canvas slip on shoes purchased locally in New York City’s Chinatown. Although her background was in handbags for designers such as Michael Kors and DKNY, she decided to take the leap after a confidence boost gained from her first big review in Daily Candy.

Her fall collection, hitting stores now, highlights some of the key trends for the upcoming season including patent leather, cut out details, and over the knee boots. Chin’s signature concealed wedge has become a defining characteristic to the brand and is prevalent in almost everything she designs including our personal favorite, the Penny. Hardware details including buckles, straps, and chains are accents in almost every style giving the entire collection a concise and cohesive presentation. These shoes are the perfect complement to the patterned and decorative hosiery that will be big this season from designers like Shibori Love and Hansel from Basel.

Make sure to check her out at Urban Outfitters, Revolve Clothing, and Doe in San Francisco. 80%20 shoes can also be purchased directly through her online store.

5 Questions With Ce Ce Chin

1. What is last thing you discovered about yourself?
I discovered recently my ability to focus and design is greatly increased if I turn off my cell and email for a few hours each day.

2. Who is your favorite shoe designer?
Finsk, a Swedish designer who specializes in wood.

3. If you could collaborate with one person who would it be?
Tsumori Chisato — she makes great prints!

4. Where do you live and does your environment affect your work?
I live in Chinatown, in an apartment where my grandfather raised my father. Right now I’m in the process of redoing the apartment and putting color on the walls. I have always had white or off-white walls, but now I’m considering the space a creative expression. So, I’m really thinking about mood, light, and balance. I definitely believe the environment affects my work and my life. At our work studio we’re fortunate to have a beautiful view in midtown Manhattan, which has a positive affect on how we work and view our jobs.

5. Name some of your favorite contemporary artists?
I saw the Martin Kippenberg exhibit at MoMA recently. I love his sketches on hotel stationery. I travel a lot, but rarely collect mementos. Perhaps I’ll begin sketching shoes on hotel stationery to document my travels and creative connection to each place.

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