Photography / May Lin Le Goff
Creative & Fashion Direction / Ashburn Eng
Fashion Designer / Max.Tan by Max Tan
Make-up / Mav Chang
Hair / Annie Tay
Model & Text / Luth Seah Zhiqiang
Styling Assistance / Shanna Matthew
Max Tan has returned in new collaboration with Test Shoot Gallery for his Autumn/Winter 2010 collection titled “Against”. This collection follows the success of the first ad campaign for his Spring/Summer S2010 “Pressed” collection, also with Test Shoot Gallery. Featuring a darker colour palette and a looser draping silhouette, the emerging designer challenges us with the question of what’s right (or wrong) in fashion. Hear about the designer’s opinion on conventional society, the “austere” emotion in his pieces, as well as all the must-knows about the designer behind this ever-growing eponymous label in our second exclusive Test Shoot Gallery interview. By Luth Seah Zhiqiang
TSG: The most of the world we live in has nothing to do with fashion nor finds interest in it. Whom do you work for and target? What does your work reflect?
I work purely for my own vision and by asking rhetorical questions. Through this rhetoric, I challenge how I can answer with my collection in a different manner. In that way, I hope to change the stereotypical image that the mainstream relates to the fashion industry, and I hope through that, it engages people to relate more to fashion, that there is more than what is presented to them on a commercial platform.
TSG: Can you tell us a bit about the starting point of the A/W collection? Technically, what are the differences between this season compared to your past collection?
The starting point of each max.tan collection is always either a question, or a challenge. It challenges the way we perceive objects, subjects or sometimes just purely a notion. S/S 2010 Pressed challenged the different ways I could re-imagine a white shirt. A/W 2010-11 challenges the right and wrong ways of traditional drafting. What is deemed right or wrong? Can the wrong be made to look right? If so, is the end result still regarded as a mistake?
TSG: In provoking the notion of “traditional methods of pattern making”, did you come across any interesting or unexpected interpretations of your collection by different people?
It is definitely an interesting collection to work on. Some have looked at my garments and have had difficulties in identifying the conflicting elements used. For instance a particular piece from the collection is a jumpsuit which can be worn as a dress- it seems right when worn as a jumpsuit, what they do not realise is that the dress can be created off the jumpsuit from a different perspective. Worn as a dress, the jumpsuit hangs off it when looked at straight on. Which is right then? Ultimately, this collection serves to send a message that we no longer have to care about what is right or wrong. Would you rather be right, or free?
TSG: Your collection seems to lean strongly towards the austere? Why do you think austerity is often dark and surreal with the suggestion of tragedy and death?
In death, everything that one acquires during his lifetime is proven to be transient. Everything is once again, blank. Austerity is simple, blank and stripped of details. That is also the reason why the collection vaguely alludes to funeral clothing.
TSG: What materials have you worked with in this collection to create such textural and protective shapes?
I worked with a crepe for this particular collection. It was a popular fabric for power suits during the ’80s. Camouflaged by the sharp lines of the suits, we have truly neglected how beautiful it is when the fabric is allowed to fall freely.
TSG: You mostly use dark and monochrome colours – is that why you don’t believe in seasons? What was the inspiration behind the colours?
A main area of interest in my creations are silhouettes. I believe monochromatic colours do not distract one’s eye from how differently or interesting my silhouettes are.
TSG: What are your opinions about life in conventional society?
At times, I do feel quite alone. It is hard to find someone whom I can relate to, even harder to have someone give constructive comments because there is hardly anyone I know that can understand what I am doing. Then again, I am thankful for the few who understand and constantly critique my works so that I can improve.
TSG: Can you tell us a bit about your environment while growing up?
I grew up in a typically Singaporean environment. As a boy, I was not expected to do fashion despite the influence of my seamstress mother. Everyone seemed too caught up in the pursuit of the correct path that I was to
take on. It came to a point that I realised I needed to start living my own life and make my own choices. My teenage years were confusing with regards to my sexual orientation and career. I was considered unorthodox in the grownups’ eyes. It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable growing up experience, but it has contributed to who I have become.
TSG: If not for fashion, what would you be doing now and why?
I would have been a musician. Like fashion, it provides an escape from this endless pursuit of normality.
TSG: What is the worst question you have ever been asked?
Why I make clothes that do not fit. I see my creations as a cocoon, a safe armor that shields one from the stereotypical world. I disagree that my clothes are oversized, but in certain areas, it is made to fit and sit well on the wearer. I think creating this space between the wearer’s body and the garment is far more challenging than making clothes that just pieces together like a flat jigsaw puzzle. I prefer it to look at clothes in a 3D way, like a sculpture, rather than a painting.
TSG: How do you pick your materials, and what goes into your decisions when putting them together?
With an idea of the silhouette that I have in mind for the collection, I proceed to choosing the right fabrics which will in turn give me the desired results. It does take some experimentation with sample yardages for certain complex designs. I have do have a preference towards either fabrics in which are easy to sculpt, or fabrics with enough weight to fall nicely. The wearer’s comfort is also another important deciding factor. Although I
like the relation between fashion and art, fashion is however not entirely art.
TSG: How did fashion appeal to you to become a designer?
Garments allow one to take on an identity; changing our identities when we put on a different outfit. I think I am particularly drawn to fashion because, to a certain extent, I am an escapist. Clothes serve as an escape from who I need to become or who I am.
TSG: What does the term ‘beauty’ mean to you?
Beauty to me is fragile and transient but a non-stop chase to the end of the rainbow.
TSG: Can you tell us about your design process?
I start each collection with a challenge. I start draping and sketching at the same time. As I work with readily available monochromatic colours, I source only when I have finalised my designs. However during the design process, the properties of the ideal fabric are taken into consideration when developing the collection.
TSG: Best compliment ever?
It would have to be ranked together with the big players (Prada, Alexander Mcqueen, Valentino etc) in the summary of Spring/Summer 2010 women’s wear campaigns on the trend forecasting and reporting website, Stylesight.com. It was an extremely captivating campaign envisioned by Test Shoot Gallery and it proved so successful that it caught the eyes of the analysts behind a trend forecasting service.