Joshua Fitton of TEMPATAN might be raising the flag for Malaysian fashion and heritage right now, but he already has his eyes on the cities of the world. Delivering urban fashion that’s rooted in identity of place, culture and belonging, Tempatan is poised to make a heavy fashion statement with Tempatan Black, its made-to-measure sibling that gave it the honor of being the first ‘street’ brand to stomp the hallowed runways of KL Fashion Week 2014. We catch up with Joshua to find out more about his intriguing brand philosophy and his exciting plans for the future.
Firstly, I wouldn’t call myself a fashion designer, but an architect-designer that is involved in fashion. It all ties in with my background in architecture. During my post graduate years at university, I wrote theses on tropical regionalism and the identity of a place with regards to its architecture – how a building needs to integrate with its surroundings and be tailored to climate, culture and use, and that contributed to the essence of the Tempatan brand. I wanted a simpler, more current and relatable platform to voice my views and ideas and I came across the local street-wear scene. It felt natural and not too big a leap from architecture as it was still designing with a sense of place in mind. “Street-wear should reflect the streets.” That’s how I made sense of it and it’s the concept that I planned the whole Tempatan label around. It is generally accepted that fashion has a 6 month cycle, so this was a perfect platform for me to get my ideas out as it was an ever changing scene and constant updating was necessary. I took a gamble and threw myself and the brand in the deep end. Our first 2 designs were of old Malaya stamps. I thought if I could make a ‘dull’ subject like history appeal to the youth and from that instill a sense of identity and pride in them, then the brand is doing what I planned for it to do
THE DESIGN PHILOSOPHY
1. Place-centric: It encompasses all that I try to put forth with the identity of the brand – a brand that is tailored and designed to suit the streets on which it is worn. It is a concept that is derived from my background in architecture that has taken root in the identity and core values of my brand. In a nutshell, it’s being more in-tune and sensitive to the environment you are in.
2. Cultured: The association that the designs and garments share with its surroundings and context and how its perceived by the wearer is an important part of the design process for me. As my designs are very culturally as well as historically driven, it instills a further sense of identity and pride to the wearer and in turn, he wears it as a statement.
3. Local: The brand itself means local, and it is central to the brand to have each garment either made locally using local talent and craftsmanship or to be locally-inspired.
TAKING ON TRADITION
The local and traditional elements that were used was aimed at getting the attention of the people and giving them something that they can relate to – whether it reminds them of their past, their upbringing or a culture that they are a part of. It was done to create an emotional tie or reaction to the designs. Once it becomes relatable and its meaning understood, the next challenge was to make it desirable and ‘cool’ enough for people to want to wear it and wear it with a sense of personal pride. Keeping up with current trends in fashion is very important when it comes to what we do. I hope customers can engage with our brand’s purpose and spread the awareness and knowledge of tradition and culture into the wider circle.
FROM MARKETS TO RUNWAY
The inspiration to take the brand to another level with Tempatan Black and debut it at KLFW 2014 came from observing the current fashion houses in the region. The local fashion scene is thriving, be it street-wear or high-end design houses. It was the same inspiration and drive that I started Tempatan with over a year ago that drove me to pursue Tempatan Black. Fundamentally, the ideology was never meant to be limited to street-wear and t-shirts. We knew we were capable of more and we wanted to do more. As a designer, being able to show your collection at Fashion Week is a benchmark that you will strive for, so when we got the opportunity, we pounced at it. It is an honor to be recognised and to be among the first “street” brands to have a presence on the runway.
PREPARING FOR FASHION WEEK
KLFW 2014 is all a bit of a blur for me now as it all happened so suddenly. From getting confirmation to participate, around the end of March, when all I had was a bunch of sketches on bits of paper. I had the idea and concept of it all in the back of my mind but the implementation was a huge learning curve, prior to which I was only producing t-shirts and sweatshirts. My first scramble was to sort out fabric selection and supply, and then getting together the skill-set to put all the designs together. Having taught myself how to sew definitely helped with a few of the more unusual pieces that none of my seamsters dared to take on. After that it was all a blur except for the countless sleepless nights which I’m still forced to endure as I’m still completing orders from the show. All in all, it was a success and I’m looking forward to putting on the next show!
Tempatan is now stocked in Parkamaya, a department store located in Farenheit 88, Bukit Bintang, KL as well as a few local street-wear boutiques in and around Kuala Lumpur. As for an online presence. TEMPETAN will be available on classtreet.com, a new street-wear website launching in late August 2014. We also take orders through Instagram and Facebook. Tempatan Black is currently made to measure and is therefore by appointment only. We take our designs as well as fabric samples to our customers in the comfort of their own home. I also have a designated phone line for Tempatan and Tempatan Black so that I’m constantly available to our customers and followers even when I’m not in the workshop.
THE ARCHETYPAL FASHIONISTA
I see the current Tempatan Black line being worn across the metropolises of Asia. Having designed Tempatan Black with the aspect of Malaysia’s diverse culture in mind, it is still applicable to many cities in Asia. The incorporation of Chinese silks and songkets easily makes it relatable whether in Singapore, Shanghai, KL, HK or even Jakarta.
WHERE TO NEXT
In a few years I see the Tempatan brand with a full range of head-to-toe products – from hats to jackets to trousers. I actually hope that this will be sooner rather than later as we’ve already started developing a few items. As for the bigger plan, we hope to be expanding and catering to neighbouring countries and designing with other cities and countries in mind. Tempatan will always have a local touch no matter what city in the world it is available in. It will be designed, tailored and made with that particular city or place in mind so that it will be local to a place no matter what. I do this because I truly believe in the Tempatan brand as well as designing with place and context in mind.