COLLEEN QUEN – A Celebration of Life, Love, and Beauty

Por: Edward Rueda

17, March, 2022 en Luxury Trending

A Celebration of Life, Love, and Beauty

Geraldine Zialcita

A luxurious fabric assimilated with the gift of touch garnished with the human spirit equates to Colleen Quen spreading light, love, and beauty through her creations. Her creative expression, exceptional talent, and personalized approach define a powerful statement filled with character, substance, and significance.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Colleen dreamed of becoming an astronaut or teacher when she was in third grade, yet as she grew older, being a haute couture designer proved to be her true calling. “I wanted to learn the human shape of the body through measurements and calculations. This is an integration of a fabric sculptor and a geometrician where I utilize my right brain and left brain. The balance of the Yin and Yang brings immense satisfaction to my purpose and service,” she shares.

Colleen completed her Associate of Arts degree in The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco and ventured into further studies acquiring a certificate, at Simmons School of French Dress Designing and Patternmaking in San Francisco. “I learned how to design evening wear using the French method. If I am to compare my education to American fashion design―ready to wear to couture―made to measure, this would be equivalent to a Ph.D. in fashion as well as learning to be a true artist in fashion design,” she informs.


A couturier like Colleen has a keen eye who examines and comprehends the drape, the luxury feel, and the character of each fabric. She has the ability to grasp the foundation of a design combined with the anatomy of the body while creating shapes with precision. Colleen conceptualizes a design through her imagination with precision in design, fit, sewing, and drape in one or two fittings. “The secret to achieving the right fit, matched with an exceptional drape, and flawless structure is determining if the garment contains a solid foundation—a garment with sublime structure symbolizes a strong foundation of a building,” she describes.

Defining timeless pieces through her designs, Colleen serves as a sculptor and architect of a human body’s structure and shape. Like a ruler, she perceives objects in composition, proration, and optical illusions yet have broadened her dimensions by learning the anatomy, physiology, and movement of the human body. Colleen has sensed a deeper meaning of expressing her creativity―she creates poetry combined with her purpose. “I can finally grasp the essence of my creations. Through couture, fashion transforms into art—sculpture through the fabric on the human body. Enabling fashion to be sustainable is through the use of quality fabrics which is considered to be an heirloom investment. I appreciate the beauty and truth of the human body from the second to the fourth dimension,” she states.

Her mother and two actresses have played an instrumental role in Colleen’s sense of fashion. “My mom wore tailored-fit clothes with the latest American fashion during the 50s and 60s. She paid attention to everything she wore from head to toe which included matching gloves, hats, jewelry, and accessories to complement her outfit. Not to be outdone, her skin was radiant and she had healthy hair. I was raised appreciating the art of dressing and caring for oneself. I also admire Audrey Hepburn when she wore Balenciaga and Givenchy couture—the sophistication and cut of the garment speak for themselves. The simple elegance of the French classic actress, Catherine Deneuve inspires me. Her clothes were tailored-fit and coordinated beautifully from head to toe. The sophisticated color tones created with luxurious fabrics and stitched with attractive buttons to produce a classic timeless look,” she expresses.


Colleen’s signature style embodies a diverse palate of her favorite eras ranging from her ancestral five thousand year old Asian culture to American Hollywood in the 40s-60s and the exquisite sophisticated French cut and charming style. Colleen collects vintage accessories and revamps her look depending on how she wants to express her creativity. “My style is ethereal. A lightness, yet with structure and form―juxtapose of both visible and invisible. Working with fluidity and architectural edges. Fabric selection also describes my character. It’s a combination of Modernism/Futurism where collars become flowers and wings. I value timeless designs with a mixture of complexity and simplicity. Proportion is my mastery. . . Color is my mastery. . . The cut of my creations is my mastery. . . Elegance, functionality, and sustainability is my mastery. . .The essence of my client is my mastery. . . Your aura is my clothing designed for you. I am a visionary and expressionist through my creations of clothes and my persona or character within. This is the way I communicate my love and joy to people. I resonate with this style because I can connect with my roots and my love and celebration for the beauty in my life. I’m a walking album of my inner character,” she narrates.

Colleen’s designs reflect the beauty of butterflies and nature which is a symbol of rebirth and resurrection. She is a disciple of HEQ Qigong practitioner and embraces her name Heavenly Essence Celestial butterfly who is here to bring joy, love, and beauty from heaven to earth. Colleen has always connected with a butterfly and when she was six years old, Colleen would find caterpillars and raise them until they reached the cocoon stage. As she witnessed first-hand the transition of a caterpillar to a butterfly before releasing it to the sky, this gave her a deeper understanding and appreciation of the beauty of life and all beings. “The beauty of a butterfly defines femininity and I felt like a young Biologist studying the anatomy of the butterfly—their eyes and the way they eat and drink. The butterfly signifies the meaning of life. Nature provides the same connection―to remind us that we are one on this planet. We need nature to help and heal us which also connects us to the main source—God, heaven, and the universe. We must respect the treasures around us that come from, Mother Nature. As they are the highest source of love and light. Each creation or painting I create is like a poem, from my heart to you. I want you to know we are beautiful because we are all one―Love, compassion, and unity through the respect of diversity,” she imparts.


As a true artist, Colleen values her rituals which serve as a grounding process. She clears her space and meditates an hour before bedtime to prepare for a full day of creation, love, and energy. “It’s sort of like a mindful way of designing. My table is clear and ready for me to create, design, and draft. I usually design in silence in the morning because the hummingbird, crows, and parrots create the sweet sound of nature. I live up on a hill in the Coit Tower area and a ray of light spills inside my design studio—I feel like it’s heaven on earth. This is the state I am in―to design involves having clarity—bright and full of light and ready for every movement, stroke, sketch, or calculation. Precision and yet freedom to dance and channel the flow through me. Accessing this is effortless and if I feel exhausted I stop all creation. I must be within a flow of a peaceful state, and when it becomes magical and simple, I transform into a vessel to perform and access my service,” she unveils.

As a fourth-generation Chinese American who was born in America, Colleen is neither too Asian nor too American—she’s neutral and perceives herself as a spirit form. She has discovered her strength and her true self to speak universally and uses her voice through her clothes or art. “My work is my heart, poems, beliefs, and emotions. I hope my words of the color, fabric, shape, texture, and movement of my sculptural design speak to you. A flower, bird, or butterfly doesn’t speak to us in languages, but through their being, visual appearance, and movement. This is my unique way of creating and speaking through the world through my designs—my universal language from Paris to China and America which brings beauty, joy, and healing,” she conveys.

For the past three decades, Colleen has been the most sought after haute couture designer in San Francisco with designs worn by celebrities who have graced the red carpet, models who have marched the fashion runways, ballerinas, opera singers, and musicians who have performed on stage, and many brides who have walked down the aisle. Her dresses have also been featured in glamorous magazines, TV, and film, and displayed in prestigious boutiques. Every design Colleen executes represents a piece of herself exposing her vulnerability and touching the core of the human condition. “I will have many beautiful patrons walk in and out of my life and they are all beloved to me because I not only create a piece for them, but I also become so much of them and learn about their life, beauty, and spirit. They become a butterfly in my life which I’ve helped transform and fly. I would be present in the different cycles of their lives —from motherhood to menopause, to being grandparents with their children continuing the tradition. I’ve traveled the entire world through the eyes of my clients. For each person, I create for is a gift to me,” she says.

Colleen deems the whole process from concept to execution like giving birth to a child. This entails possessing a mindful spirit with 100% effort. “I was taught that every person I meet is unique and needs to be honored and taken care of. Since I couldn’t have children, this gave me the opportunity to create maternally in a universal way. I’ve been told a couturier is like a doctor in fashion and I would like to be known as a healer. My energy is fully immersed with love in the way I draft your shape to the hand stitches and finishing touches. I ensure all the details contain elegance and care. My fabrics are luxury from inside to out and truly made with my love for you,” she indicates.

The underlying message in Colleen’s outstanding designs unleashes an inner spark from within which touches your heart and awakens an utmost inner joy that needs to be expressed. “I want people to feel their own superpower backing them up through my creations. May this be their second skin which will take you to a memorable journey in life for that moment in time. Be adorned with love within and externally surrounding you with a protective shield of energy. It’s your ‘super dress’ or ‘super coat’ and it’s my ‘super love’ to you.” She beams with pride.

Since the art of creating is vastly fading, Colleen has strived to keep her business sustainable. With huge department stores and online stores that provide a quick service with no objective behind the art and design, Colleen has remained true to her vision and calling. She aspires to maintain the integrity of her wisdom, art, and craft in her designs. “Couture is has been my soul for thirty years now. The challenge involves explaining my craft and how I must be honored for my artistry and process. I will never sell myself for less than what I can give. I honor my mastery in design and I will continue to create this way until my last breath. A home-cooked meal made with love by your mother is far more meaningful and memorable than a five-star restaurant. I want to be known as that home-cooked meal, made with love.” She smiles.

To add a feather to her cap, Colleen has mastered the art of watercolor paintings. During the first year of her new venture, Colleen completed 300 paintings of flowers, birds, and butterflies which represented light and hope―a celebration of the beauty of life. “Chinese watercolor painting is another form of my expression. It journals my everyday life where I can express my heart and feelings through colors as well as through the dance of my brush. It brings all elements of grounding— joy and peace―it’s my moving meditation. As a Qigong practitioner, painting is an extension of how I heal myself and others. Every stroke and movement has a great purpose and intention. My paintings portray prayers of celebration, unity, diversity, and compassion since we are one. They have helped me overcome my darkest times of transition with my silence expressed through the dance of my brush. The canvas has been my window to paint my life the way I would love to see my world—my peace from within and the transformation of darkness to hopefulness,” she defines.

Despite all her accolades and success, this relentless woman has faced many challenges. In 2012 she separated from her first love and soul mate. She also had two miscarriages losing twins and a son. After several years of operating her atelier business, Colleen closed shop and encountered depression. “I reached a low peak and became withdrawn. This period enabled me to detach from the world and get deeply acquainted with my soul. Yet, during this dark period, the universe continued to open doors for me. I received requests to collaborate with the New Century Chamber Orchestra, travel to Shanghai to dive into the history of the Qipao, and create costumes in homage to the birds in California. I was awakened and reminded that I still had a deep purpose to fulfill on Earth―to serve and be of service through my fashion and art. The heavens have a way of uplifting my spirit which allows me to continue working on art, music, and dance projects for the community,” she discloses.

Colleen is no stranger to adversity, yet her faith, strength, and resilience have equipped her to bounce back stronger. During her routine check-up, her gynecologist stumbled upon a lump on her left breast and requested Colleen to have a mammogram, shortly followed by a biopsy. With the recession, a hectic schedule involving frequent travels and deadlines, Colleen wasn’t ready to face another obstacle. “I was in total shock and almost in disbelief of what was happening. I had two miscarriages before and also a dangerous incident a couple of years ago after the miscarriages—hemorrhage and losing so much blood. I was quite fearful but surrendered my life in the hands of the doctors,” she reveals.


While Colleen allowed the doctor to perform the biopsy, she wasn’t aware of the consequences that awaited her. Feeling helpless and clueless, Colleen followed the structured procedures that felt structured. “After the tests were done, the doctor said they would inform me about the results. I went home crying mixed with fear of uncertainty and unknown. A few days later, I learned that I had the BIG C. The shocking news flashbacked to when my mother had cancer twice. I prepared myself and gathered the courage to perceive cancer being a death sentence,” she divulges.

Colleen sought medical advice from two diverse doctors to gather a Western and Eastern approach to her cancer. She had the choice of removing her left breast or having a lumpectomy and after one month of conducting ample research and weighing the pros and cons, Colleen decided to pursue the latter. After the surgery, Colleen chose to work with her Chinese doctor given her roots. “Instead of going through chemotherapy and radiation, I decided to follow the Eastern approach which consisted of acupuncture and Chinese herbal diet. I stopped eating meat and went Vegan for three years. I also eliminated carbohydrates, sugar, and food that contained hormones. I rested for five years, but I’m proud to have taken my own path. My breasts will never be the same—a scarlet letter C on my chest and although I am part of the Cancer club, I have chosen to celebrate my womanhood and the gift of empowerment,” she declares.

After all the trials and tribulations Colleen has encountered, she never succumbed to defeat. She learned to survive on her own, start from scratch, and reinvent herself. She taught design to her students, immersed herself in watercolor painting, learned Qigong, and helped others heal from depression. Colleen favored embracing the predicaments and empowered herself to welcome possibilities. “I feel that time of darkness or solitude was meant for me to rest―to retreat, to preserve, and to take care of myself. We must find a balance of mental state in peace with our soul—health and service to our planet. I never doubt my purpose here―I am an artist and designer that will always be interacting and working with all walks of life. I am a renaissance woman who will be turing 60 in October and want to celebrate this turning point in my life,” she announces.

Colleen uses her platform to empower other women by taking them under her wing. As a way of giving back from all the blessings she has received, Colleen has built a foundation of networking experiences to provide other women a channel to learn and grow. “I have a few female students whom I have molded and prepared to start a couture business. I’ve also helped models engage in fashion. They call me their fashion mom since I treat them like the sister or daughter I never had. I am a universal mother to those who need my guidance or mentoring,” she says.

Colleen has been an avid supporter of the SF Opera, SF Symphony, SF Ballet, Arthritis Foundation, Asian Art Museum, and the SF Chinatown community and is forever grateful to these organizations who have played a significant role in advancing her career. As Colleen approaches her 60th birthday, she deems it to be a monumental turning point in her life—an evolution of new beginnings. “This will be a celebration of ageism of all stages where I celebrate my womanhood. I’ll be planting seeds of new goals for the remainder of my time on this planet. I feel for the past ten years I’ve been in hibernation and reconnecting with my inner spirit―in my cocoon or crystallizing a deep meditation. I appreciate Vincent Gotti, Sharon Seto, and Josette Vigil-Jelveh who have helped me awaken my senses. To have the support and faith from your loved ones makes a huge difference in our lives. Together, we can move mountains.” She smiles.

As she pushes the envelope further, Colleen hopes to spend the next decade creating a new collection of couture which will symbolize an inner depth and enable her to evolve in full circle—a melting pot of life experiences in a mindful sustainable way for our planet. She plans to spend the following decade pushing the boundaries of her imagination through live performances, music, dance, art, couture, digital technology with collaborations of other masters artists, bringing a community of life celebration together —higher elevation of truth and love and unity to our planet—a spiritual quest of unity through many mediums. And if possible her 80th-90th years will be spent by educating, giving, and sharing her knowledge and opening a new expressionist Art school that caters to the young and young at heart. “I want to be at peace on this planet with all my loved ones in every step and breath I take, from now to the time I transition to heaven. This is a lifetime practice I am always working on matched with gratefulness,” she affirms.


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Una publicación compartida de Colleen Quen (@quenlifenews)

As Colleen forges ahead putting in a hundred percent in every decision she makes in her designs, paintings, and life, she has gained a new perspective—to be at peace and have no regrets. “This past decade has taught me to be mindful and thoughtful in every step I take. Whenever there is chaos, or my emotions are running all over the place, I choose not to be stressed and take myself to the core of my being. Instead of looking outward, I have focused on searching inward and discovering my true self. The best education I’ve ever had was to be my own teacher―to practice what I have learned. I love life so much and each circumstance that has transpired in my life has shaped me to render my own decisions I can be proud of. I have practiced integrity, good values, and principles to honor myself and the planet. I encourage you to empower yourself by trusting your gut and going with it since we are equipped with greatness and inner wisdom which can bring forth brightness, goodness, and pure love,” she voices out.

This remarkable woman shares her knowledge, wisdom, and talent with positivity, vigor, and love. “Designing, painting, and a free form of expression is my antidote which brings peace. I love to dance with you . . . Nothing is permanent―it’s always transforming like a butterfly. As an artist and designer, it is important to be all you want to be while we are temporarily here. All these challenges in life keep me humble, present, and grateful since every breath we take is sacred. Being connected to heaven and earth is my only constant and never changes—everything else is transformational and a delight to be in it. I am a vessel who will keep exploring, learning, and expressing my creations.”

Beneath every design and painting lies Colleen’s still voice—a faint whisper that breathes life, awakens the senses, and eternally shines. Like a butterfly, Colleen Quen’s metamorphosis depicts the bittersweet stages of one’s existence with a window to the past, a bridge to the present, and a gateway for the future—a synergy of milestones and moments—a celebration of life, love, and beauty.

COLLEEN QUEN @quenlifenews

HMUA: JOSETTE VIGIL-JELVEH @onsetwithjosette

Writer: GERALDINE ZIALCITA @geraldineauthor

Creative Director: SHARON SETO @sixseto

Editorial Assistant: BESS GOTINGCO @besscr8tiv

Art Director: NIGEL JOHN DEL MUND @nigeldelmundo

Location Coordinator: HEATHER PFEIFFER

Photographer: VINCENT GOTTI @vinniegotti

Location: The Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA