Noon started with outlines of garments in my head. They were enormous creatures; giants looming in the background with the angularity of a Modernist sculpture yet is all-enveloping like a fluffy cloud. Sometimes you don’t know whether what comes up in your head is the right thing to do, but you can either run with it or falter like a fish out of water. It was then that I decided to focus on the idea of space.
The space, or interval, is the central tenet of ‘Ma’ (間) – a kanji word originally derived from Mandarin ‘jiān‘ to mean ‘the space in between objects’. The concept of Ma has now permeated all manners of Japanese lifestyle, from pronounced pauses in between sentences to the slightest pause in the middle of a bow. In the realm of arts and culture, Ma exists in the form of negative spaces in paintings, interior decoration and notably the kimono – a garment that embodies an interplay the space between the cloth and the body. One can easily observe this space on the bare nape of the neck, strategically exposed between the pulled hair and the collar of the kimono.
To incorporate Ma is to allow the wearer to live and breathe. I want to acknowledge and respect how ordinary people work and move by creating clothes that embrace but not constrict; protect but not suffocate.
The idea of creating space does not rest solely on the pattern of the garment. Over the years, I have learned that fabrics can hold up half the sky. Rather than reducing textile as a means to achieve a design while keeping costs down, textiles should be a tool that elevates designs to even greater heights. In the case of NOON, I made use of springy and structured fabrics that can retain shapes well despite being lightweight. Ornaments exist in the form of an ornate print – such as my Kitano Shirt – and subtle jacquard weaves in my wools and cottons.
As the foundation upon which all garments are built upon, I believe in displaying what the textile industry has to offer in order to keep the industry diverse and creative. The fabrics I had picked for Noon is ultimately a celebration of deft hands and intelligent minds, whose output deserves to be seen by the wider world rather than dying on the showroom floor.
A year ago I picked up a gardening hobby, starting with a potted bird of paradise. Between learning how much sunlight, water and fertiliser a plant needs, it went through a process of near-death, slow recovery and finally a complete rejuvenation. I bought several other plants shortly in my over-zealous excitement. I learned to amputate rotting roots in philodendrons, prune creeping vines, and coax a Monstera to grow upright. Some survived, others have become compost for the communal front yard. A year later, I picked up a sliver of horticultural knowledge, and an unlimited appreciation for the difficulty of sustaining life that does not communicate in words nor gestures.
Much like growing a plant, the hardest part in this collection was learning to work with pleated polyester – a fabric that communicates its existence, will and character in non-verbal language. It stretches, bends and falls in its own peculiar way. The direction in which pleating is cut and sewn will directly affect how it expands, contracts, and falls. Only after understanding how the fabric behaves was I able to create the spacious garments I wanted. It was a lesson that could only be learned by making mistakes.
In many ways, building a fashion collection – and ultimately a brand – is akin to growing a garden. A collection is made up of more than one garment, and a plural number of collections – plus many other non-garment elements – make up a brand ( does a brand exists when it is not communicated to the world?). To keep a brand alive, one must be acutely aware of signs of growth and distress that is not immediately visible. Most importantly, one must also be willing to carry out the inevitable, that is learning to cull an idea that does not work. A single festering rot can bring down the entire ecosystem.
It has been almost six years since I first entertained the thought of making clothes, never once thinking I’d come this far when I first released the first five pieces. I did not get a fashion degree, and I have never interned for any designer nor worked in a factory. To create actual collection of garments was not something I could envision. All I knew was silhouettes and fabrics from all the thousands of archive items I had bought and sold. When I found the opportunity to create something of high value within my means, I took the chance to diversify my business, and eventually switched lane from selling other people’s creations, to selling mine.
What Noon serves to do is act as a conduit of change between now and what I feel the future is headed to. Having spent almost six years on a brand that I have nurtured and curated, it would only be prudent to evolve. After all, the love for fashion is rooted not just in the garments, but also understanding the zeitgeist that the industry operates in. Only with this in-depth understanding of the world and how it operates can one make clothes that customers will feel comfortable in.