To present a piece of creative work to the world is to throw away a piece of yourself. Once it has been seen, it no longer belongs to you, for you have granted the world license to rip it apart, chew it up and spit it out, before either dousing it in milk and honey to revel and devour, or in gasoline to set it alight. Because that piece of work used to be a part of you, it almost feels like you are the one being manhandled.
Though a positive review is preferable to a harsh criticism, neither matters as much as getting your work out there, otherwise one remains stagnant and eventually withers to irrelevancy.
The original Earhart Parachute Coat
I have come to believe that those who love to design have one thing in common – an obsessive personality. It is the obsession to bring forth a new creation, to shape the world in ways that could make the world a little bit more good-looking, liveable and ultimately a good environment for procreation, even if one does not explicitly desire to have children. Being presentable – mentally and physically – increases attraction for sexual relations, ceteris paribus. This same obsession drives the need to create perfection out of an idea, regardless of its quality. We pick apart and rebuild minutiae until the idea has been realised in its fullest form, or at least according to how it exists in our heads.
The Earhart Coat was first released over two years ago. A beautiful solid piece for winter, it had taken multiple rounds of research and development to reach its final form, to the chagrin of the people who worked with me on it. Out into the world it went, and for a full week I was happy with it.
Needless to say, the ever-present critic in me started nitpicking my own pride and joy. It could exist with different details, in a different colour, a different fabric, a different shape! Thus a new spring version was born. Made with a symmetrical placket, large trapeze silhouette and a fabric I am obsessed with – silk wool – I brought it with me for travels in the tropics.
If time and money were of no constraint, I would release a collection of one single item made in ten different fabrics with details that differ to varying degrees. But one must hold oneself back from doing too many vanity projects.
Summer went by, and the coat called for a new winter iteration. A little less opulent, a little more hardy, one that differs from the original. At the end of the day it is always about making the Earhart a protective cocoon that can be worn everyday.
Armed with a load of wool cashmere, a new iteration of the Earhart was born for last year’s winter. What was a 60s style trapeze coat became a Tzarist Russian-style double-breasted writer’s coat. If it had been released as a product, I’d have thrown in many references to Dostoevsky. It protected me through the entire cold, bleak January in Shanghai.
Practice makes perfect – an adage that could not be truer when it comes to making clothes. Few people are born geniuses, but many can be great with constant practice. We build, deconstruct, then rebuild. Nothing beats hands-on experience when it comes to making clothes.
There are however, plenty of shortcuts to be made when it comes to building a fashion brand. Now that everyone is on the internet, the barrier to making clothes has collapsed. Every sketch can be made into a pattern by someone hired off Fiverr, then sent to a factory somewhere in Vietnam or China – many of which offers low MoQ – or factories in Bangladesh and Pakistan that are willing to make ultra low-cost, high volume orders. Depending on one’s budget, many factories – even the small ones – now offer the full package of sampling, plus finding fabrics and trims that match what the client has in mind. Why fly to Guangzhou and spend three hot grimy days in the fabric malls when you can get someone else to do the legwork? The full gamut of fabrics is but a DHL delivery away.
Many of my garments are evolutions from existing body of work. The tools that I usually need are quite rudimentary: plenty of dressmaker pins, pencil and paper, and Photoshop。
Another winter dawns upon the city. Amidst all the collections I have to do simultaneously, the Earhart calls out once more. An obsession to create the new compels me to pick out details I had grown out of, and details that I believe could elevate the coat for a new era and a new narrative. Other than the most fundamental of technicalities, few things are ever right or wrong in fashion design; it is more important to create a dream that befits the zeitgeist, which often boils down to tweaking the littlest details, from the size of collar to the width of a hem and the length of sleeves. Too precise, and your garments will look like outdated Yesstyle pieces from 2012; too outlandish, and you are doing no better than baby’s first year of fashion school year-end project.
It is near impossible to be accurate in predicting the atmosphere of the era, but one can put one’s fingers to the prevailing winds if one reads widely and travels down the off-beaten paths of the world. One-minute tiktok takes and trips to Instagrammable cities do not keep a citizen well-informed. Ultimately, the only teachers that matter are History and Mother Nature.
Soon I will be presenting another piece of myself. There will be a new story to tell, a new perspective to unfold; ready for the world to do as it pleases.