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Interview with Singapore veteran fashion designer Jo Soh (Hansel)

September 17th, 2010 Comments off

 

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Hansel, a local label that constantly produces sweet and whimsical designs capturing hearts of many Singaporean women of all ages truly made Jo Soh, founder and designer of the label, one of the most recognisable names in local fashion scene. That is why we here at TSG wanted to know more about the innovative mind that is behind the signature geeky spectacle frame and quirky bowl-cut bob hairstyle. Read and enjoy as Joh shared how she got interested with fashion all thanks to her fashionable mother, the latest store interior installations which never failed to capture her customers’ attention, and all things that is Jo So in our exclusive interview! By Luth Seah Zhiqiang

 

 

 

 
 
TSG: From pop out cardboard furniture to doodling a house for your paper dolly collection, what is your starting point for such interior face-lift each season? Will there be another surprise for this upcoming “Lily the lady” collection?
 
 
   

The starting point comes from the theme of each collection – a two dimensional home for a paper doll, or, in the case of the temporary pop-up shop, a pop-up book inspired cardboard interior. The desire to have the environment suit the different themes stems from a love of theme parks since childhood. Each time you step into a different part in a theme park, your mind is transported to an entirely different world. Your senses are heightened and you get excited and curious about EVERYTHING inside that world. When I pass through the gift shop at the end of that experience, I always wanted to buy a little souvenir to remind me of my experience. As such, I believe that apparel retail is not just about the apparel – it’s the whole experience as well.

In keeping with the ladylike theme of “Lily the Lady”, I have created an oversized white pearl necklace and oversized paper dollies for the front window display. On the walls are words and phrases associated with acting and dressing like a lady, such as “POISE”, “MANNERS”, “LACE”, “PEARLS” and just in case our hansel shoppers should wonder what to do: “WHEN IN DOUBT, DRESS UP”. All these have been “cross-stitched” onto traditional bunting strung on the shop walls. I have also arranged the display tables with chairs and glassware as if there is a genteel tea party happening in the shop!

 

 

TSG: What made you decide to get into fashion? Have you always been interested in it?

My mother was a very fashionable woman who picked up on new trends with ease and confidence. She had a few different wigs, she would perm her hair at home (often times I was the guinea pig for her new home-perming kits!). She had false eye lashes, lots of shoes and accessories. In fact, her wardrobe was so large that her clothes overflowed from her cupboard into my brother’s and mine! At that time, my brother must have been about 8 years old, and his reaction to her storing her clothes in his cupboard was to charge her rent of 50 cents per month! (Today he is working as an auditor in a bank.)

I must have been just 6 years old then. My reaction was the more typical for a little girl – I tried on her clothes in the mirror and would sometimes sit inside the cupboard, in sheer joy just to be surrounded by all the clothes! So it was my mother who showed me the joy and complexities of clothes and appearance, and I decided at age 12 to pursue fashion design.

 

 

TSG: What was the idea using Singapore Art Museum as a backdrop and how did it relate to the themes and inspirations behind the collection itself?

“Lily the Lady” is about an imaginary aristocratic, cultured young urban girl doing “cultured” things like visiting museums, having tea, cycling on a old fashioned bicycle and other such ladylike activities. The Singapore Art Museum was a natural choice with its elegant colonial architecture. I love old-fashioned, elegant and ladylike dress styles with their womanly silhouettes because I feel they do really bring out the WOW factor of the curvy feminine body. I love the playful tease that comes through with the idea of up-keeping modesty and class by wearing demure twin sets and strings of pearls, although the VERY feminine silhouettes suggest other ideas.

 

 

TSG: You’ve collaborated with so many different and fascinating individuals. Could you tell us a little about some of those relationships and how they came about?

Luis Cantillo is a Colombian multimedia artist currently living in Beijing. When he was living and working in New York, he created the animation video for Captain Cheese.

 

Luis and I got to know each other when we were both studying in London. He is one of the few people who instantly “get” my ideas and work! The video he did required NO guidance from me at all, apart from my Captain Cheese drawing that I sent to him. I absolutely LOVED what he did! Luis also photographed my collection when I graduated from Central St Martins in 1999.

Adrian Wee (also known as DJ wee.like.me – he runs the Poptart nites at Butter Factory, where he works as their marketing manager) and I have known each other since year 2000 when I worked as a waitress in the now defunct Insomnia Cafe (NO, not the one at CHIJMES). It was a very “underground” bar/club in Bugis Village). He created the tracks for all my fashion shows starting with my 2003 debut show in Australia. He also created the tracks to hansel’s animation videos, including Luis’ “Captain Cheese”! He is also someone who was able to grasp what I wanted without much complex explanation.

Zi Xi (otherwise known as Messy MsXi) was my student when I taught part-time at Temasek Polytechnic years ago. She was a great student with buckets of talent. She has since graduated from Central St Martins and is working as an artist/illustrator. She has also created an animation video for hansel – it was for the “Robot Girl” collection.

 

 

 

 

 

TSG: If you could create your own retreat what would it be like?

A luxurious tree house on the edge of a lush green forest, right by a private stretch of white sandy beach. Mmm…

 

 

TSG: If you could use three words to describe the Hansel label, what would they be?

Quirky, fun, wearable.

 

 

TSG: What are you working on at the moment and what future projects do you have on your agenda?

After 7 years of practice, I have experimented with various ways to create the concept for a collection and now have my own process of what works well for me. I have learnt to recognize when an idea is good to turn  into whole collection and when it would not. I am more confident in my designs now, and have found the right balance between expressing my own ideas and producing wearable clothes that my fans would want to buy and wear. At the moment, I am working on AW2011, for release in shops in Aug 2011. We are also wrapping up on our uniform design projects for DBS Bank and POSB Bank.

 

 

TSG: Your designs won you a sort of celebrity fanbase that includes Katy Perry, Denise Keller, and Chiaki Kuriyama, how do you feel about it?

These ladies are beautiful, successful and influential! It is such a big compliment and an honor that they have worn hansel. This is especially the case for Katy Perry, where she had picked to wear that hansel Sequin Bustier Dress herself!

 

 

TSG: Besides platforms like Singapore Fashion Festival to create awareness, what kind of support do you feel home grown labels need?

The most important support that Singaporean fashion labels could get is the support of Singaporeans, ie, Singaporeans to buy Singaporean. Australian pride for their own Australian fashion labels is strong and I would like Singaporean pride for their own labels too. Currently, the local market is still largely divided between those who shop for cheap mass fashion labels because of the low price points, and those who shop at famous international brands because of the status associated by wearing them.  There is a growing group of Singaporeans who think otherwise and this is the group that I hope will continue to grow!

 

 

TSG: Do you have any tips and suggestions for young people who would like to start a designing career, and participate in collaborations with different companies one day?

Collaboration is easy and will come naturally, when you connect with fellow like-minded companies that have styles that complement yours but doesn’t compete with you for the same market. In terms of setting up their own businesses, I think that’s the tougher part because not all people are suitable for owning and running their own businesses. It is a completely different thing from being a designer!

 

 

TSG: What are the difficulties faced being a designer today?

In terms of a self-owned fashion label like hansel, we don’t have the budgets of larger companies so sometimes we are unable to afford that market outreach that larger labels have, for example, opening up several retail outlets at one go, or have sales/PR agents in a few countries at one time. We also don’t have the economies of scale compared to mass labels nor the fame of international brands. So we compete more on design value and
also, if you compare us with the mass brands and the international brands, our products are actually extremely good value-for-money!

 

 

TSG: Who are your favourite designers and why?

I really love IKEA for the way they democratize good furniture design!

 

 

TSG: What was your favourite outfit from the 80s?

I remembered that I had a happy yellow dress with a Peter Pan collar and a sash that I tied in the back with a bow that I loved for many years.

Campaign Photo Credits:

Location: Singapore Art Museum
Photographer: Ming
Hair and Make-up: Kenneth Lee
Bicycle from

Vanguard Designs
 
 

Link
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

young&restless “RITUAL” Autumn Winter 2010 Campaign by Test Shoot Gallery

August 26th, 2010 Comments off

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The Team
Photography / May Lin Le Goff
Designer & Creative Direction / Ashburn Eng
Graphic Artist / Yong Yi ( www.yongyidesign.com )
Make-up and Hair / Larry Yeo using Cle De Peau Beaute and Redken
Model  / Egzona Lulaj ( Upfront Models )
Styling Assistance / Shanna Matthew  

 
 
 
 
 
 
The Interview 

TSG is excited and very proud to announce the launch of the new label young&restless, a line designed by our TSG founder, Ashburn Eng, in collaboration with Singaporean label max.tan. Hear it from the man himself about the setting up of the label, crossing over to design and the inspiration behind the first collection titled “Ritual” in our exclusive TSG interview. By Luth Seah Zhiqiang

 

 

 
TSG: Can you tell us how you created your Young&Restless label?  

After a successful ad campaign collaboration, Ashburn Eng and Max Tan formed a friendship that lead both the fashion stylist and fashion designer respectively to more creative partnerships. Often, the pair would find themselves nodding their heads in agreement with each other’s opinions and comments on most topics; fashion related or not. Hence, with no surprises, aesthetically, the pair are very much in-sync. Therefore, “Young&Restless” is launched.

 

 

TSG: Where does the label’s name originate from? 

Not to be taken literally to refer to hyperactive youth, “Young&Restless” simply caters to women who view themselves as carefree, and not bounded by the “reservations” that comes with age. It is for the free-spirited, for the confident, and for the unpretentious. They are not bothered about the numbers of age, they are forever young. They will not be tied down; they are always on the move.

 

 

TSG: How would you describe your design aesthetic?

I like things to be instinctive, random and pure. I like the idea of  juxtaposing masculine tailoring with the softness that I put in the fabric so there is a duality between sensuality and strength. I am not particularly frilly and I like to avoid things that are too embellished. Definitely appreciate a certain hardness and drama.  A firm believer in non-traditional pattern-making and I avoid superfluous seaming and construction in my apparels; seams should follow a woman’s body and thereby accentuate it. Not merely using the amount of fabric and cut it the easiest and most cost effective way like in a mass market factory.

 

 

TSG: What kind of person wears your designs?

A modern woman who is sophisticated yet bold enough to be day tripper and desires to be different.

 

 

TSG: What made you decide to get into fashion design? Have you always been interested in it?

I always have great interest in design, photography and fashion. The accumulative years of styling and consultation experiences working with magazine, commercial clients, design graduates and fashion designers have shaped the way I understand how publications, fashion and retail businesses work. Therefore I feel it is a natural progression for me to craft something on my own.

 

 

TSG: Your debut collection has a somewhat occult theme behind it. What’s the inspiration?

I wanted to work with the popular subject of the occult. A past exhibition that I came across entitled “Worship the light, Worship the dark”, instigate an explicit relationship between spiritual forces and something potentially sinister. The idea of worshipping the light has been perverted into something more evil. Certain more hedonistic experiences occur in the dark as well. It is a free space to experiment with little conscious morale restraint. For me, it is not the gothic that intrigues but the darker side of imagination, rather the culture of fear and self limitation that exists in some urban contexts today.

 

 

TSG: Have you ever experienced the supernatural?

I had a very scary experience once, that even till today I am still confused about what actually happened. My friend and I were walking in around in Chinatown early one morning after a late supper. In the corner of my eye, I saw this old man with slivery hair and shabby torned clothes. I first thought he was a hobo, but then I realised that his eyes were hollowed out.

I did not feel that something was amiss as I presumed the dim lighting was playing tricks on my eyes. But I turned to my friend and asked if he saw the same thing. He nodded in agreement. We both turn back for a second look of the old man but he had disappeared. At that point, we walked as fast as our legs could carry us.

 

 

TSG: What is the quality that brings your clothing line to life?

I create my clothes as an expression of my daydreams and use the clothes to evoke emotions from my clients. Sometimes, I would describe my job as selling a dream to my clients. I also enjoy bringing in the influence of the occult, fetishes and fantasies into my clothes, to deliver a different state of mind. I hope to impart this to the young&restless’s wearer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stockist

MAX.TAN at Parco Marina Bay - 9 Raffles Boulevard, Millenia Walk, Parco next NEXT section, Level 2

Links

www.young-and-restless.com (coming your way) 

 

Geometric Minds

May 26th, 2010 Comments off
  
 

 

 




  
 
 
 
 
 
 
Geometric elements can be found widely in the Spring Summer 2010 collections from the Marina Bay’s Parco next NEXT designers, with each incorporating the theme differently in their individualistic ways.
From the body-conscious to draping silhouettes, the minimalist to the military influence, the range is so broad in a single place that it is not hard to find pieces from these creative minds that relate.
 
 
 

  

  

 

 

The Team

 

Photography / May Lin Le Goff
Creative Fashion Direction / Ashburn Eng
Hair & Make-up / Mav Chang
Model / Emily Green  (Upfront Models),  Danielle Thomas (Looque Models)
Text / Luth Seah Zhiqiang
Styling Assistance / Shanna Matthew 

  

Stockists

 

1. Sleveelees turtleneck shirt, SkinsNBones
2. Cut-out dress, Pauline.Ning
3. Pleated top and matching pleated leggings, Mae Pang
4. Y-backless dress, SkinsNBones
5. Dress, VELIANI
6. Zigzag dress, YUMUMU
7. Drap dress, Tilly
8. Pleated dress, phylia   

All clothes are available from PARCO next Next at Parco Marina Bay  

 

We’re mentioned in The Fashionisto

February 2nd, 2010 Comments off

Special thanks to Onin Lorente from The Fashionisto for the lovely mention.
Please click
HERE to read the complete article online.

“PRESSED” Spring Summer 2010 Campaign by Max.Tan

January 7th, 2010 Comments off

 

 

 

 



How many ways can you reimagine a white shirt? The variations are practically infinite and this time, the label trained its razor sharp focus on the single item that may be absolutely recession-proof; a classic white shirt.

If that sounds conservative, there is nothing workaday about these shirts. Shirts are toyed with quirk cuttings and blown up proportions, conjuring up silhouettes that conceals the wearer’s form, creating a new shape altogether. Transparencies of pleated organza combined with cotton shirting add a feminine air of lightweightness to the sobriety of an otherwise strict and sharp collection. 

Expanding on the idea of pressing a crisp white shirt, streaks of pleating are introduced to the crisp white cotton shirting collection. Normal work trousers are traded for pleated wide legged palazzos with a “collared” waistband, sleeves are also blown out of proportions for cuffed jumpsuits. 

The Team

Photography / May Lin Le Goff
Creative and Fashion Direction / Ashburn Eng
Fashion Designer / Max.Tan by Max Tan
Hair & Make-up / Chris Ruth
Model and Text / Luth Seah Zhiqiang
Styling Assistance / Shanna Matthew

 

Definitely an upcoming designer to look out for, Max Tan speaks out about his label, designs, and his latest collaboration with TSG for his Spring 2010 ad campaign in our exclusive interview.

TEST SHOOT GALLERY (TSG): Tell us more about the inspirations behind max.tan for this season?
 
MAX TAN (MT): Spring/Summer 2010 is inspired by a single wardrobe staple – a classic white shirt.
 
TSG:  What are the differences between this season than the past few seasons from the techniques and the difficulty faced while working on it?
 
MT: Instead of taking on a theme or building a story, the difficulty this season will be to create infinite variations on one single item. Transparencies of pleated organza combined with shirting fabrics adds a feminine air of lightweightness to the sobriety of the otherwise strict and sharp collection.


TSG
: What would you define as your signature as a designer?

MT: Androgynous meets soft geometry: experimenting with quirky cuts and expanding on simple ideas, I conjure up silhouettes that conceal the wearer’s form, creating a new shape. Maximizing on minimalistic ideas mixing with blown proportions. Much of the label’s lineup might be done in monotones, but the sobriety is usually interrupted by unexpected twists in design.

TSG: If there were to be a person you look up to, or aspire to be, who would it be?

MT: Madeleine Vionnet. Beautifully simple with cuts that were ahead of her time and yet still remains timeless even until today.

TSG: In your opinion, are there any differences in “art” and “fashion”? Which would you relate your work with more?
 

MT: Art comprises of fashion, but fashion is not art. Ultimately, one will need to sell. I try to strike a balance between both in creativity and commercial viability.
 
TSG: As most designers design for the moment, but you seem to design a few steps ahead, or off the beaten track. Does that come naturally?
 
MT: I think, in order to stay current, one needs to be ahead of time. The label is never meant for a conformist, I would rather be forward than to be in the moment.
 
TSG: Your method is to work against the grain of fashion. Are you an anti-elitist?
 
MT: Though my method is to work against the grain of fashion, I don’t choose my clients. I don’t exactly design for a real woman in mind, but ultimately, I guess she/he is someone who understands fashion, craves for a little more edge in designs. A minimalist, but yet is not afraid to stand out from the crowd.
 
TSG: What can we look forward to from max.tan next season?
 
MT: Fall/Winter 2010-11 is inspired by the strict robes of nuns. One will not understand what is underlying the huge swathes of fabrics. Against what is right, against what is wrong. Taking on this idea, garments are constructed with “wrong” elements. How can a particular detail be made “wrongly” and still look right?
 
TSG: What made you collaborate with Test Shoot Gallery for your ad campaign this season?
 
MT: I’ve always been amazed by the images that Test Shoot Gallery that has been producing. The creative input of creative director Ashburn Eng envisions pictures which provokes one’s thoughts. 
 
TSG: How did you get to know about Test Shoot Gallery?

MT:
It is hard not to know about Test Shoot Gallery through the web. Its the talking point of the town.
 
TSG: What is the difference between the collaboration with Test Shoot Gallery this season and your previous two ad campaigns?
 
MT: This season, I’m collaborating to let Test Shoot Gallery tell my story in pictures. It is exciting to see my collection being told as a story in pictures from a fresh new perspective. It is thought provoking and inspires my next collection.
 
TSG: Is the idea of creative collaboration important to you?
 
MT: Yes. Collaborations drives thoughts. The exchange of ideas and seeing how others will interpret my design concept always inspires and opens up new worlds to me.
 
TSG: Thank you very much for your in-depth view.
 
MT: Thank you.

 

Stockists

Max Tan boutique will be available from Parco at Millenia Walk from April 2010.

 

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