Colleen Quen Couture: Gold and Butterflies

Written By Jeanie Walsh


Behind the Hands: The soulful creations of Couturier & Artist Colleen Quen

4th Generation Chinese American and Bay Area native Colleen Quen has devoted her life to studying and creating in the world of fashion…..

Then a life changing event struck in 2013 when Ms. Quen was diagnosed with breast cancer.

As fate would have it the universe aligned a moment and opportunity for me to cross paths with the lovely soft-spoken and brilliant designer. February 2016 my life journey connected me with artist and couture designer Colleen Quen. We immediately connected and  soon began to discuss the idea of documenting several of the designers’ finest most exquisite designs featured in museums around the world. It was such an honor working side by side with the extraordinarily talented designer as the creative director and fashion stylist for the photo shoot and short film. To celebrate the remission from the long harsh battle of breast Cancer and some of Colleen’s greatest accomplishments we decided to document several of her museum pieces for the first time.wp-1464032371532.jpg

Colleen’s designs are inspired by nature’s motifs and manifested into “enchanting dreams.” Stepping into her San Francisco studio I felt like a little girl in a candy shop or better yet like I just entered into in Chanel’s closet from Scream Queens. The most important piece of each project I am developing is grouping the “Right Team” together. Whether it be the trends on the runway or the beauty looks for magazine covers one thing for sure is…the fashion industry runs on speed!
When it comes to creating editorials and fashion videos every detail counts starting from the lighting, the props, the backdrop, the model for the brand, the team and the list continues on.  It starts with an inspiration and then an idea forms into a concept. After the concept is created the next crucial step is pulling together the right team to bring the vision to life. For me it was like having the crème De la crème of a team. This was like a dream come true for me! The “Butterfly Dream Team” consisted of Haute Couture Designer- Colleen Quen, behind the lens was winner of the 2016­­­­ Triple Masters of Photography and Nikon Ambassador- Bambi Cantrell and Senior North American M.A.C. Makeup Artist -Victor Cembellin created the beauty looks on the fresh faced model. The model is seventeen year Bay Area Beauty Rachel Earl. Yes, I am proud to say she is my lovely 6 ft tall millennial daughter. Bambi Cantrell was awarded her triple masters in photography this year and her stunning work was recently featured on the cover of Today’s Bride Magazine SF.todays-bride-1 (1)

During this fabulous opportunity I styled the cover shoot as well as a six page spread for the glossy wedding planning and destination magazine while working alongside world renowned photographer Bambi Cantrell. I had the great pleasure of interviewing Mr. Cembellin several times during New York Fashion Week (NYFW) and I am a big fan of his creative genius when it comes to the art of cosmetics. aau_2015-14As fate would have it Ms. Quen and Victor went way back so I sent over my idea for the upcoming shoot and was jumping like a school girl when I found out that He would be on our team creating the beauty looks. On the art of makeup Victor simply states: “Makeup has the unique ability to straighten ones emotional posture”!I am a diehard fan an avid believer that “Once you go Mac you never go Back” but not to say I am definitely one to try out some new products in the beauty industry. I am all for mixing high end with affordable products and pairing vintage with fashion-forward designs. Take a peak behind the scenes of The Creation of Butterfly Dream it’s simply enchanting!

We decided to document for the first time five of her most elaborate designs and museum Gowns. Following her true love, she studied at the Simmone Sethna School of French Couture. Certified in French Couture, she began her journey of couture design in 2000. Madame Butterfly was one her first creations. Colleen’s love of the female body and studies of physiology gave her the knowledge of understanding the movements of fabric with the body. In this romantic design the layers of silk under the dress recreates the flutter of a butterfly.  The Masterfully created feminine chic dress is designed in such a way that the dress literally flutters like a butterfly as you walk in this magical piece. wp-1455343363940.jpg

The fabulous MAC Cosmetics Fall/Winter 2016 beauty looks and romantically modish fluttering dress can be seen here in our exclusive behind the scenes video of Butterfly Dream. Just like fairy tale Design Madame Butterfly, the next gown which Model Rachel Earl wore was straight out of a dream. “Butterfly Dream” the elegant translucent evanescent gown that is simply breathtaking. The masterpiece gown is created with the finest silk and constructed with thread that had been dipped in gold. It is a true Cinderella Gown with breathtaking details including over 300 butterflies which were hand sewn into the delicate design. As Rachel modeled in the artfully skilled gold shimmering creation the sparkle intensely lit up the room. Butterfly Dream is like a fairy tale!

Her work has appeared in Flair, WWD, International Herald Tribune, and “America’s Next Top Model”, as well as the internationally famed Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet Company. Her international and celebrity clientele includes Tyra Banks, Paris Hilton, Geena Davis, Melissa Rivers and Bai Ling – among others. Colleen Quen is not you’re a typical designer. She has a very soft spoken demeanor and her talent includes designing, painting, dancing and playing violin. Survivor of a long harsh battle of breast cancer Colleen is returning back to the fashion scene.


Colleen Quen’s long list of exhibited designs included — a fashion installation in 2008 at the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), for her creation of the “Butterfly Dream” couture gown during the Shanghai Biennale (highest-profile contemporary art event in Shanghai).

 “Surface and Shape: TechStyle and SoftWear,” is a modern technological installation for the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.

Both the Transformational Voices and Roots Sculpture Gowns

went straight from the hands of designer Collen Quen into the museum and had never before been worn by anyone not even for a fitting until the shoot.wp-1455343823316.jpg

The roots sculpture represents the digitized work and the architecture of San Jose, California from the ground up and the transformational voices represents the future.wp-1455088438969.jpg


I admire Colleen Quen’s gift as well as bravery and strength. During her deepest and darkest moments, instead of giving up, she challenged herself by using creativity and turning it into a work of art. Ms. Quen discussed her sickness with me and how the thought of not being able to create new designs was devastating! The pain and sickness from the cancer was intolerable. Depression set in as the thought of not being able to sew was unbearable. It was at that moment that she took her negative bad energy and transformed it in a way to bring happiness and joy to others by turning back to her other artistic roots. colleen

After some soul searching and realizing her loyalty to art she turned to painting during this time to express herself and manifest her energy into something positive. This influenced the decision to take her creativity to new heights by merging fashion with art, transforming her vision into expressions on a painting, rather than designs on a dress. Colleen began this healing journey by creating 300 paintings in a row.  This collection is called….She studied traditional watercolor painting under Madeleine Fu, a well-known artist from Shanghai who taught her to let water and paint bleed into the paintings to create organic shapes. During Quen’s invigorating break, she started painting and used brush strokes to communicate and voice her thoughts and imaginations onto rice paper (a delicate painting sheet compared to silk fabric). Quen says:

“Painting made me come alive and filled my soul with creativity when I was not able to design. It was my meditation and therapy session. A way for me to reach out to the world again.”

Colleen is in touch with her spiritual side. She channels earthy elements like water, fire, nature and aspects of her culture and fashion designs to create a painting so uniquely artistic, that it will leave you in awe of its ethereal beauty. Within six months of her newfound journey, she was able to create over 350 paintings! She goes on to say:

“These paintings represent my love for life and my recovery from cancer. A miracle, I had another chance to live life to its fullest by expressing myself through art.”

Colleens’ whimsically delightful paintings are sought after by  many and will soon be readily available to purchase through her online store. Colleen is in the process of taking some her original designs and creating a line of scarves. The Accessories Collection is being created from the recycled silk from her personal collection of various silks that remain from designs created throughout the years by Ms. Quen.  Collen and I are uniting again in this project to help support the Green Festival of SF. Consumers need to be educated on sustainability and now is the time. The future of fashion is here!

  “Fashion is a true art created by the unique for the mass. Now is the time for all human race to cleanse the earth back to its natural state. Eco fashion is one way to help the world population live and feel healthier.”-JW

We have been the cause of great sickness and mass destruction to our planet but it’s not too late to save Earth through the help of Eco conscious consumers. All sustainable Brands must educate and inform people of the importance of change that is necessary to help the environment we are living in. The fast pace industry demands movement so it is important for brands to maintain and sometimes give themselves a facelift to evolve with the changing universe. Moving forward Colleen and I are looking to technology to transform the way consumers can feel by changing your energy through use of nanotechnology and sustainable textiles.

For more information regarding helping the universe through sustainability click the link. To follow Colleen Quen in her design process for future creations tune in on YouTube, Instagram or Facebook.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s