I have passion for fashion. I love creating the style, working with fabrics, coordinating colours, and designing unique textiles & clothes. Through my long association with fashion, I have seen many sides of fashion, and the fashion industry - these are 2 very different things.
When I was studying fashion, one of the subjects I loved most was Costume History. Apart from the gorgeous details of each era’s costume, I was fascinated by the link between fashion and society. How fashion could tell a tale of what was going on in their environment. And the world. How fashion could be a colourful way of depicting a society. I loved studying about the fashion houses that popped up in different eras, absorbing their ahead-of-their-time visions and their silhouettes that reflected the changes of society.
The cultural and social references by fashion remain valid to this day, but commercialism has totally changed the outlook of fashion. And that has strongly affected the fashion industry we have today. Our massive progress in technology has resulted in tremendous output. It brought on so many choices from materials to items. Faster production cycles were demanded, creating ‘fast fashion’. Marketing created segments from gender to age, prompting the industry to produce everything for everybody.
When fast fashion started to take off, I was quite horrified. This was not the fashion I signed up for! Soon most of the stores carried similar merchandise. This is when I started to explore the fashion industry much deeper. This was the beginning of my journey which eventually led to my textile venture.
Textiles were always my thing. My first company I worked for was a fashion retailer that had strong textile roots. Through working with the textile designers and learning how the textiles formed different collections, I fell absolutely in love with the world of textiles. Colours, textures, patterns, applications – I absorbed like a sponge. And most of all, I strongly developed my own taste and aesthetics in textiles.
My interest in arts & crafts played a big part in pursuing textiles. I was already collecting textiles, and I was drawn to traditional indigenous weaving. I was particularly fascinated by the textiles from Africa and Asia. I also discovered the wonder of dyeing art. Looking at the piles of marvellous fabrics, I started seeing something else. As I sorted my fabrics, I realized I was editing my own collection! My aesthetics and instincts kicked in, and I already wanted to create something new, something different, marrying my design vision and wonderful traditional crafts.
My first encounter with sustainability naturally came from the craft community. Traditional weaving and dyeing were becoming a dying art. While their skills are truly wonderful, they often need the design and style input to make them more current and adoptable to modern living. This is it, I thought. Fashion could not be more valid here in this context. Creating the demand for the artisans’ skills thus became my mission and I have never looked back.
There is a great craft culture and community in Laos and Cambodia, where I have long worked with the local artisans for my collections. It is important to continue going there not only to work with them but also to find new resources. This, I’ve learnt, cannot be done just on the internet. I need to see the yarns and fabrics, where and how they dye and weave, and just how much effort goes into the whole thing. It is inspiring. I need to connect with the people and develop a relationship in person. I’ve also found out the part I love, which is my design input, is what the artisans love, too! While they are deeply proud of their traditional crafts, they love working on my designs, telling me it is very exciting for them to see different colour schemes and how their traditional works can be modernized. Yes, Fashion! If my input can motivate them to continue with their art and our collaborations can produce something new and original, I couldn’t be happier. It revitalizes the community, provides the income they need, and thus helps to sustain their community.
My journey started with my passion for fashion and staying true to myself. Working with the artisans has really helped to grow a sense of community. I love supporting the weaving and craft community through my business. Fashion is a passion!