I think it’s fair to say that Shien is, in actuality, one of the surreal creatures she seeks to embody in her clothes. How many people are there in the world who love the art of fashion like she does, donning everything from Garbo 1930s dresses to Victorian men’s clothes to 1970s silver catsuits to her “everyday” high-waisted 1980s pants with suspenders? (All the while, having “no idea where Barney’s is.”) Fervent in her commitment to the “aesthetic movement,” Shien quotes Oscar Wilde, one of its pioneers and someone whom she derives a lot of influence from – “presenting beauty is an act of morality, because it elevates the soul.” She finds the all-too-common phrase “you should get it, it’s popular” absurd and passive – “why can’t you think for yourself?” It seems like a simple enough notion, but has somehow become nearly extinct in the present day. For her (and for me), there is a sadness and lack of romance in the culture of casual attire – “clothes are not only a statement of individuality, but you leave behind the drudgeries of utilitarian life.” (I can’t help but think of how jarring it is to see the two-story Crocs store in SoHo, rows and rows of Crocs in every color, all the same plastic shoe, set inside a monumental stone building).
In line with one of her heroes Leigh Bowery, who said that “fashion should shock people, disturb people, and make them question why they are so normal,” Shien hosts parties called Dances of Vice, named after a German expressionist film about the triumph of madness, rebellion, and creative expression against social restraint.” Often the themes of Shien’s “dances” are meant to provoke, “and there is no such thing as overdressing,” everything from DaDa to Trouble in Toyland (a search beneath the merry facade of Christmas), “you have flappers dancing next to punk and goths, no judgement, very topsy-turvey.” And a far cry and Rococo dream of floral neck corsets away from her Taiwanese roots, where they even controlled what you wore on your feet in school, all the way down to the socks.