Interviewed by Joana Meurkens

Photo by Ryan Scullin

There is a new designer on the scene who has managed to merge the power suit with streetwear design. Annie Meng is a new name in the fashion world, but one that will not be forgotten as she takes her rightful place as creative director of the new brand Menga354. Started in 2020, Menga354 is an ode to retro-futurism, a luxury casualwear brand that explores the unknown temporal spaces within a multi-dimensional universe. Inspired by ongoing technological and scientific advancements, the brand aims to capture the uncanny nuances of futurism and science fiction.

Annie Meng was born in Hefei, the largest city in the Anhui Province of China. She moved to the U.S. with her parents at the age of six and settled in Montgomery County of Maryland before moving to NYC at the age of 17 to attend the Parsons School of Design. Menga354 might be a new label, but the inspiration behind the designs have been brewing since she was a child.  Annie, a self proclaimed “Myspace Bitch”, grew up surrounded with harnessing an aesthetic and finding new creative outlets through sites such as Myspace, Photobucket and Tumblr. Annie always knew she wanted to be in the fashion industry. In her fourth grade yearbook, you can spot her under, “Most Likely to Be a Fashion Designer/Basketball Player.” She left the basketball dreams behind while fashion became an integral part of her life. Annie spent Saturday afternoons with her mother at the flea market, finding unique pieces to add to her wardrobe. She developed a love for shopping second hand, a practice she holds dearly to this day.

Upon moving to the city, Annie scored jobs working with labels such as Hood by Air, Chinatown Market, Rag & Bone, The Row, and Tommy Hilfiger.  She draws inspiration from Rag & Bone and The Row’s importance of good quality pieces, the loud elements of Chinatown Market, and the resilience and strength that she saw from her peers at Hood by Air. 

“What I’m trying to do with Menga is create something that is classic and timeless. I don’t want to make something that bores people though so I try to add an exciting element in everything that I do, whether it’s the material or one small detail but still sticking to simple shapes and silhouettes,” Annie says. 

Photo by Joana Meurkens

Last spring at the height of the pandemic Annie found herself, like many, unemployed and applying to multiple jobs that inevitably led to a series of “we aren’t hiring right now”. Annie seized the opportunity to start her own label Menga354 and said, “Fuck it, I’m going to do what I want. If I can’t get my dream job then I’m going to make my dream job.” Another reason why Annie created Menga was because she saw it as a portal to success. It would allow her to offer her parents the luxuries that they missed out on when they were working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for the first 15 years of them living in the US.

A label that blends timeless pieces and the industry’s love for the oversized streetwear aesthetic, Menga has something for everyone. Pieces range from the glamorous pants suit of your dreams to staple quality T-shirts and tanks to the ski mask you’ll wear to the skatepark. 

Photography by Ryan Scullin. Designs by Menga354. Modeled by Joana Meurkens

Unconventional fabrics in her designs symbolize armor. Aspects of Menga’s aesthetic also alludes to the designer’s love for Black Mirror and futurism. “I love futurism because it’s an escape for me. It gives me hope for better things to come.” Through her designs Annie has created a futuristic fantasy for our generation to thrive in while looking utterly glamorous. 

Menga is the future, both in the aesthetic it puts forth and the purpose behind the brand itself: to reflect the diversity and inclusion that the fashion industry is heading towards. “For how many Asians there are in fashion, not seeing any Asian creative directors makes me so mad. I see many talented Asian designers in every place I’ve worked at, but not in any positions of power. I don’t know if it speaks to the Asian community and how we are viewed as ‘timid and shy’ or that we just aren’t given the opportunities. All these people (minorities) are in the fashion industry but they’re not in any position of power.” Annie says. Things are slowly changing. In 2018 Virgil Abloh was anointed the artistic director of Louis Vuitton, becoming the first Black man to be director of a major fashion house. For an industry that thrives off of taking different cultures and packaging them into being “high fashion”, fashion houses should be reflecting the world around them, which is filled with the power and beauty of people of color. 

“Everyone is born the same way and everyone’s going to die the same way, nobody is above or below anyone. We are all humans and for one person to see another as anything less than human is ridiculous. Hate is taught. I think everyone should be teaming up and fighting the same battles.”

Photography by Joana Meurkens

For Annie, the desire to be a leader of change in the fashion industry is a reflection of her personality and childhood experiences. As a young girl, she made an effort to be seen as strong, in reaction to seeing other Asian kids being bullied around her. “Growing up I wanted to be strong, and it definitely goes back to what I design. I’m loud and strong with my designs. I don’t like being timid. I am really influenced not only by minorities but by the underdog and highlighting the power they give off.”

Unconventional fabrics in her designs symbolize armor. Aspects of Menga’s aesthetic also alludes to the designer’s love for Black Mirror and futurism. “I love futurism because it’s an escape for me. It gives me hope for better things to come.” Through her designs Annie has created a futuristic fantasy for our generation to thrive in while looking utterly glamorous. 

Photography by Ryan Scullin. Designs by Menga354. Modeled by Rahm Bowen, Joana Meurkens, and Maria Salazar

Annie is a force of nature, a young woman on the rise whose charisma and edge carries through in her work. Menga is a reflection of who she is. So what does the future hold for Menga? Annie hopes to integrate technology through fabrics and continue to explore unconventional materials in classic garments. With Annie’s talent, Menga’s potential is limitless. I would not be surprised if I saw her work on the red carpet. Her pieces are begging to be shown off to the world. 

Follow Menga354 here

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