Logan Komorowski, United Strangers

Meet New Zealand-born and Guangzhou-based Logan Komorowski. As the Co-Founder and Creative Director of UNITED STRANGERS, he talks us through his idea of a modern furniture brand that celebrates recycled furniture and home accessories, and sheds light on a sustainable design process.

Logan Komorowski, United Strangers | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Logan Komorowski’s passion for creating furniture from recycled materials struck when he was just fifteen years old. His first dabble was shortly after he dropped out of school and together with a bunch of his rugby mates started doing house demolition work. Logan filled his father’s garage with collected wood from the building sites. Eventually, he made some tables, sold them to family and friends, and started a company by the time he was sixteen years old. After a short stint in the USA, Logan studied product design in NZ, headed to China and landed a job as Head Creator with Halo by Timothy Oulton. It was there where Logan had the opportunity to explore every material and every idea, and then find the courage to go do it for himself.

It is probably not surprising that he co-founded United Strangers and under his title of Creative Designer, Logan has taken the brand from an idea to thirty-three stockists in thirteen countries in just five years. Known for repurposing bruised, battered and forgotten materials like aged brass and surplus army tents, United Strangers stands out because of the painstaking craftsmanship that goes into every piece of work. The result is a collection of timeless classics with a modern appeal and personal touches like hand stitched leather work and hand patina finishing.

We caught up with Logan while he was in Singapore launching the collection at Journey East. In this candid interview, Logan shares his love of furniture, unique design process, Singapore debut and thoughts on the future of the furniture industry.

What do you love about creating furniture and accessories?

I have a huge passion for the development process. I just got off the plane from Bali this morning and I found a new technique in Bali that I’ve never seen before so it is something that I want to try with our leather. I enjoy just trying to find a new way in doing something and use that on the production line.

In 2009, UNITED STRANGERS was created as a design company and in 2013 the brand started. How did UNITED STRANGERS come to be what it is today?

When we started the design company, I was still young and didn’t know the business side of things. I just knew the creative element and we did quite a few years of helping other companies build their brands. It got to a point where I knew I could do this for myself. At that time, I was surrounded by guys from France, NZ, China and Korea. We were just a bunch of strangers who came together to start the brand so even though I founded it, I had a lot of these guys around me to help get it off the ground. That’s how United Strangers came about.

Our brand has never been constrained to a specific look. Trends come and go and I just want to keep evolving. I didn’t want to be a brand that was pigeonholed into a certain look. So when I started United Strangers, I decided that it could be anything. When you say United Strangers it could be a record label, hotel business or anything. That’s the point with it; to keep having fun.

UNITED STRANGERS means “to be unique, to think differently and to create a world where everyone is welcome”. How have these values played out in developing the brand?

We have a tagline, “Some things mean everything to us” because there is a lot of stuff that gets discarded and maybe we can’t put it into a mass production but we can take elements of it. That takes us off in another direction. We start off with something we’ve found along the way. It might not be viable for mass production but there will be an element we’ll take out of it to recreate the process on a larger scale.

Tell us about your aesthetic ‘furniture with a twist’, what does that mean?

To run a workshop and have stores, you need to have an x amount of products which you know can move and sell. You need to have cabinets, tables, etc. but you also need to be able to produce those things that are a little different. For an example, the stitching on the Drum Round Coffee Table is done by hand. I want it to have some hand element, something that feels a little different or special. Or the hand-formed piece of brass on the Pilot Chair. Just to have a feel so that it doesn’t look like it has come out of the assembly line. It’s got to have soul to it.

Logan Komorowski, United Strangers | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

I’m not trying to make products that are so expensive that my age can’t buy. That’s the whole purpose. There’s too much high-end product and low-end mass produced product out there, so we’re trying to fit into that sweet spot in the middle.

You are a Kiwi based in China, how did that happen?

One of my friends from back home was doing charity work in China and asked me to join him. I was doing charity work for the first year in a very poor part of China back in 2003. We got put up into quarantine because of an outbreak of the SARS virus. We were in these tents in a small province and there was a guy who saw me sketching furniture. He had a house in Xianjin and told me to build furniture once I was out of quarantine. I started making some sofas there and moved back home after. When I was back in New Zealand, I thought, “What am I doing here?” so I moved back to China.

Tell us about the design process from concept to finished product.

A lot of designers would come up with the form and idea first but when you tend to work with your own manufacturing base, if you don’t think about how to manufacture the beginning, you can have huge issues. The development process could be five times longer.

Our approach is a bit more practical in the sense that it starts with the material. We think about what can be done with that material inside our manufacturing base and then we work on the final concept. There is a lot of work done in the background to get it to that point. Like the leather on our Pilot Chair. Even though it looks like a piece of leather, it’s a 13-day process of hand finishing of leather. It starts in a tiny tannery in Argentina. We bring it across to China and then we have to cut, stain, dye and hand finish it together with the brass elements. Every year we try to look for three or four new directions we can take.

So you base it on the materials you have and not the design element?

Yes, it always starts with the material. For an example, a piece of leather has the raw shape of a cow hide. If I design something with it and the wastage is 50% of the hide, no one is going to buy it. Then I can’t get to the people I’m trying to reach. I’m not trying to make products that are so expensive that my age can’t buy. That’s the whole purpose. There’s too much high-end product and low-end mass produced product out there, so we’re trying to fit into that sweet spot in the middle so it definitely starts with the material.

Logan Komorowski, United Strangers | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Why is sustainability an important part of your process?

I think sustainability should be engrained in what everyone thinks. I don’t go out of my way to do it necessarily but it’s how I always found our materials and ideas. Maybe it’s the background coming from New Zealand. We’ve got a pretty green image down there and I think we should all be doing it. As long as we’ve got the ability, it’s not difficult. Definitely, it’s a lot harder than going to find a normal piece of wood and making a table but in the end, you can get a lot more out of your process in the long term. I don’t think it should be a selling point. It should be part of the company anyway.

You’ve collaborated with brands like Matt Blatt. How do you choose projects/collaborations?

We’re based in SEA and Southern China and traditionally Southern China is a place where you buy a thousand chairs at the cheapest price. So when I started out, I decided that I did not want to be that type of company. I just want to work with retailers that can give me a small in-store gallery of 80-100 sq.m. I don’t have to go out to find a retailer that buys a thousand pieces. I’m after a retailer that can give me a showroom space that I believe I can work with for the next 10-15 years.

The whole concept is to have in-store galleries, provide the business model, which is small volume so we are not taking up huge warehouse space, as that’s a waste of resources, energy, time and money. We are trying to create collections our retailers can buy in small volumes and in the end it helps everybody. We don’t have to hold too much stock, we can produce more containers for them quickly and it just has to feel right.

Who else have you collaborated with?

In terms of our product, we’re doing some interesting collaborations in Japan with a fashion company called Journal Standard, WeWork, a co-working space in New York and Airbnb. In terms of our showroom space, we have 33 around the world, in 14 countries. In America, we work with a company called Four Hands; Matt Blatt in Australia plus China is growing quite fast for us at the moment.

Your stockists are located all around the world, how much do you travel in your role?

I love to travel so I try to stand grounded at the workshop for 3-4 times a year for a solid month for the development process. The rest of the time is either furniture shows, travelling to get ideas or customers. I would say once a month I’m outside somewhere.

Journey East in Singapore has become one of your most recent stockists, what do you look for in a stockist?

I really think a big part of the furniture is the owners of the company. Especially in our type of niche industry, these owners love furniture. They are not in this for financial gain. Essentially, we are in a partnership together and partnerships go through hard and good times. So it’s a big thing to know if they’ve got a good history behind them and it just feels good.

I don’t have a strategy. If we try it for 2 years and the retailer decides to open a store, that’s great and if they want to do it slightly differently, we’ll do that. It’s an evolving thing. Gone are the days with big flagship stores everywhere. You have to keep evolving.

Journey East is 22 years old now. They’ve been through a lot to keep the company going. So you just know, with a company that has got that kind of history and when you meet them and get the feeling of how they talk about furniture, it’s not just about the product they are selling. I met Terence and Anita before the Shanghai furniture show in 2016 and we didn’t really talk about furniture for the first hour. And that tends to be how most of our retailers come about. And once we have a good retail base, we don’t look for anyone else.

Logan Komorowski, United Strangers | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

"In my travels, I can only count on one hand the stores I walk into and say, 'This is a great furniture experience and this is what a furniture store should be.' I think in the future, your retail store is going to become a showroom for your online store. Enough people aren’t thinking that way and it’s a little crazy because everything is bought online."

In your opinion, what’s the future of retail and in particular how is retail changing for the furniture industry?

Obviously, online is going to start playing a bigger part. If you look at the furniture retail game at the moment, a lot of stores are going to die in the next 2 or 3 years, as the rents are too high. And especially with our generation, we’ve done our time with IKEA products. We’ve gone through our first window where we’ve bought our first flat or house and then we start earning a bit more money and want to individualise the house.

That is where the retail stores have to hit and I think there’s not enough that are doing a good job. I don’t know about Singapore but in my travels, I can only count on one hand the stores I walk into and say, “This is a great furniture experience and this is what a furniture store should be.” I think in the future, your retail store is going to become a showroom for your online store. Enough people aren’t thinking that way and it’s a little crazy because everything is bought online.

Maybe my mother’s generation is never going to buy furniture online but if you can build credibility with the brand or if you’ve walked into a store and say “Yes, I know that brand and I trust them,” they’re going to buy it online. If they know it is going to be delivered in 48 hours, they’re going to shop online. So the showroom is going to be more of a support to the online store.

Retail stores have to also provide an amazing experience. I think there’s no reason why we can’t have a cool café in places like the Journey East’s showroom, there’s no reason why on Friday night we can’t have a guy pumping some music in the corner. There has to be some different elements.

I know that United Strangers can’t take an 800 sq. m. space to make the store interesting but what happens if we make an indie line of organic products from India or something that is completely different from United Strangers? I think that’s what brands have to start doing. My job in the backend is the keep providing a certain culture and trend and put that into all the stores.

What’s next for UNITED STRANGERS?

We have a Las Vegas show next week, for the launch of a new product and a Shanghai show in September. We also have two new showrooms opening in Japan next month and a new workshop in Vietnam in October. The workshop in Vietnam will focus on more wood elements. We are also looking at providing a long-term experience to connect with partners and focus on what each market and customer need.

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Pilot Chair | United Strangers | Logan Komorowski, United Strangers | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

United Strangers

Pilot Chair

Drum Coffee Round | United Strangers | Logan Komorowski, United Strangers | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

United Strangers

Drum Side Table (Round)

Urban Sofa | United Strangers | Logan Komorowski, United Strangers | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

United Strangers

Urban Sofa

Brooklyn Living Cabinet | United Strangers | Logan Komorowski, United Strangers | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

United Strangers

Brooklyn Living Cabinet

United Strangers is currently stocked at Journey East.

#03-02 Tan Boon Liat Building, 315 Outram Road, Singapore 169074

All images courtesy of Journey East and United Strangers.

GINLEE Studio on Singapore

Logan Komorowski, United Strangers | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

While fashion label GINLEE Studio may have been established in Israel, the heart behind the brand is Singaporean Gin Lee. The values of the brand - around being true to yourself, confident in who you are and the best you can be - are very much inspired by Singapore’s constant strive to be better and forward looking attitude. Like Singapore going from third world to first world in such a short span of time, GINLEE Studio has moved quickly in six years. To celebrate Singapore’s 52nd year of independence, GINLEE Studio has released limited edition colours of the Ivy Dress - red and cream. Here, we speak with designer Gin Lee, who shares her tips about the city she holds closely to her heart.

When you think of Singapore, what comes to mind?

A melting pot of cultures, a safe city, a small city with lofty dreams.

What are your top tips when travelling to Singapore?

Singapore is often referred to as the dining capital of Asia and it offers a wide array of delicious offerings from casual street fare to fine-dining creations. I would recommend you to check out the local food fare at hawker centres for the most affordable and authentic Singapore flavours. Some of my favourite dishes are chicken rice, laksa and fried carrot cake!

What are your style tips for Singapore?

In order to keep cool in this perennial summer heat, I would recommend our silk pieces that are super-lightweight and elegant with its luxurious sheen.

What is your favourite shop in Singapore?

Kapok at National Design Centre because they offer a well-curated mix of local and overseas labels ranging from accessories, clothing and lifestyle. Besides that, they are right below our studio, making it very convenient for us to do some last minute shopping for friends.

What is your favourite hotel in Singapore?

W Singapore because of its funky and energetic vibes, plus it’s located at Sentosa which is far away from the city’s hustle and bustle – perfect for a short getaway!

What do you suggest doing on National Day in Singapore?

Go to Marina Barrage to fly kites and have a picnic session in the afternoon, then stay to catch the amazing fireworks at night.

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GINLEE Studio on Singapore | Travelshopa

GINLEE Studio

Ivy Dress Cream

GINLEE Studio on Singapore | Travelshopa

GINLEE Studio

Ivy Dress Red

Alverina Wijaya, Chainless Brain

Fuelled by a headstrong and rebellious spirit, CHAINLESS BRAIN, aims to epitomise the boldness and independence of the contemporary woman with its fine crafted jewellery. Meet ALVERINA WIJAYA, the designer behind this Singapore-based jewellery brand.

Alverina Wijaya, Chainless Brain | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Jewellery making is no easy task for Alverina Wijaya – her first professional jewellery-making memory involves piercing a finger – but the tedious process comes with great rewards; happy customers and the satisfaction of creating her own designs.

Inspired by the liberating experience of creation, the Singaporean designer found her passion after studying Jewellery Design at Raffles Design Institute in Singapore and graduating in Fashion Marketing and Management from ISEM in Paris.

She set out to create simple DIY designs with Chainless Brain in 2006. Today, the jewellery brand has emerged as one of the finest jewellery brands in Singapore, carrying fine jewellery designs to quirky pieces expertly crafted from precious metals like 18K Gold and 925 Silver. 

That’s not all. Alverina also collaborates with local designers and initiatives like Textile and Fashion Federation Singapore and FashionisTech and keeps more than 17k followers on Chainless Brain’s Instagram updated with her jewellery-making process and current projects. Read on to know how Alverina does it all.

How did you start out? What was your light bulb moment?

It started out purely as a hobby where we needed a name to represent ourselves back in 2006. And we did not expect that the brand would grow so much over the years and expand into the international market. It does take a lot of passion to come this far.

What’s your first jewellery memory?

If you mean professional jewellery crafting, I would say I remember cutting my finger from piercing a piece of silver sheet. Jewellery making is a tedious process, but looking how customers are satisfied with our work, it is all worth it.

Could you please describe your design process?

We usually take about 3-6 months to design and decide the new designs for the next collection. It really depends on our customers’ reviews base on the previous collection which explains why we take 6 months long to decide on the new designs. Our inspiration mainly comes from facets where we handmade our accessories for our Accessories line. We use these characteristics to put into our Jewellery line. In summary, we develop the designs from our previous collection.

Alverina Wijaya, Chainless Brain | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

What’s the biggest challenge with being a creative in business?

Being asked to produce more than we are able to is the biggest challenge when the workload is already overwhelming and we need to push further to meet our deadlines.

You have an impressive social following. Could you give us 3 tips on how to increase social media presence?

We started to engage with influencers when Instagram just started out. It has grown over the years and we are glad that some followers have been really loyal to us since the beginning. Since Instagram’s system has changed, the game of engaging influencers is not as effective as in the past. We usually tell our customers to check out our Instagram during events, it does help a bit on that. Of course, posting good and relevant pictures helps to increase social media presence too.

You have collaborated with a few brands, and most recently FUZE, how do you choose projects/collaborations?

It is very important that both parties come together with the same vision, goals and objectives. Many a time, our collaborations did not work out because the splitting of the cost was not even. It is very important to understand the budget that we set aside for the collection and the goals to achieve by the end of the project. If the brand vision of our collaborators is aligned with us, we are more than welcome to work with them, even if it takes a few years to fulfil or complete the project.

"Jewellery making is a tedious process, but looking how customers are satisfied with our work, it is all worth it."

 

Alverina Wijaya, Chainless Brain | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Founder, Alverina Wijaya

Who would your dream collaboration be with?

I hope to collaborate with H&M or Topshop one day! Topshop in London is very supportive of their local designers. We need to make this happen in Singapore too!

What’s your top business advice to aspiring jewellery designers?

Don’t think too much, just follow your heart and do it.

In your opinion, what’s the current state of the local fashion industry in Singapore?

I love to see how the locals are supporting local designers these days. They are more knowledgeable about fashion through social media. It is very encouraging to see that many young designers are creating their own labels in their own unique ways. I would say the local fashion industry has been evolving, to a better and stronger one.

“It is very important that both parties come together with the same vision, goals and objectives. If the brand vision of our collaborators is aligned with us, we are more than welcome to work with them, even if it takes a few years to fulfil or complete the project.”

 

Alverina Wijaya, Chainless Brain | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

What are some current jewellery trends that have piqued your interest?

The choker! They are back in trend. We try not to follow the trend too much as we want to create something that is long-lasting so customers would wear them again for the next few years.

What is your most cherished piece of jewellery?

Every piece! They are like my babies. I feel the need to cherish every piece of them since I have put in a lot of time and effort before presenting them to the public. It really upsets me every time our stockists return us damaged goods when the jewellery has not been well taken care of.

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Alverina Wijaya, Chainless Brain | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Chainless Brain

X Bar Cuff

Alverina Wijaya, Chainless Brain | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Chainless Brain

Colour Block Facets Ring

Alverina Wijaya, Chainless Brain | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Chainless Brain

Pearls Bar Ring

Alverina Wijaya, Chainless Brain | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Chainless Brain

Facets Bangle

Chainless Brain is available at various stockists across Singapore, Taiwan and U.S.A.

All images courtesy of Alverina Wijaya.

Wai Wai, Wai Yang

Wai Wai, Wai Yang | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Myanmar-born fashion designer WAI WAI may be making a statement with her signature prints, but her focus and self-confidence are what really stand out. She shares her views about the Singapore fashion industry and an insight into the design process for her androgynous label, WAI YANG.

An eagerness to share her ideas to the industry was ultimately the driving force behind the career of Myanmar-born fashion designer Wai Wai. This ultimately led to the conception of Wai Yang, an androgynous label for women who love to push the boundaries of fashion.

Her specialisation in print – on top of Fashion Design and Textile degrees from Raffles Design Institute and London College of Fashion – is probably the reason why her signature prints are so highly sought after.

Wai Wai blends various techniques like digital, traditional and screen printing against unconventional materials like scraps, cargo boxes and bubble wraps. The result is a collection of clean and minimal silhouettes with intriguing prints, textures and details. She has also collaborated with Textile & Fashion Federation Singapore (TaFf) and took part in FashionisTech 2017, an initiative that encourages the integration of fashion and technology.

We get inside Wai Wai’s creative mind as she chats with us about her design process and her take on the fashion industry.

How did you decide to become a fashion designer?

I have a great interest in art and crafting since I was very young, and to be a fashion designer has always been my ambition. I am always motivated and dedicated to what I love to do and believe in, so I followed my instinct and pursued my dream.

Could you please describe your design process?

First, I start out with the material finding process, come out with a concept and move on to the textiles design process such as mark making, drawing, painting, print placement and experimentation process. From then imagine the silhouettes and do sketches and technical drawings, and then finally moving on to the toiling and sampling process.

What’s the biggest challenge with being a creative in business?

The biggest challenge is to strike a balance between making highly creative or innovative designs and making wearable commercial garments that are easily marketable.

I am always motivated and dedicated to what I love to do and believe in, so I followed my instinct and pursued my dream.

 

Wai Wai, Wai Yang | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Image: Founder, Wai Wai

What’s your top business advice?

Before knowing the market or competitors, it’s crucial to know who you are and where you stand, with a very clear direction sense.

What are some current fashion trends?

Utilitarianism, bold stripes and checks pattern

In your opinion, what’s the future of the local fashion industry in Singapore?

In the future, the local fashion industry will become better and more international, as the government becomes more supportive of the talents by providing funds. Singaporeans are gradually becoming more open minded and supportive of the local talent and creations now compared to the past. Therefore, there are many opportunities and rooms for developing and improving for the emerging talents which will also improve the local fashion industry slowly.

Before knowing the market or competitors, it’s crucial to know who you are and where you stand, with a very clear direction sense.

 

Wai Wai, Wai Yang | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa
Wai Wai, Wai Yang | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Pre-order Wai Yang’s latest collection online

All images courtesy of Wai Wai.

Li Ying, Ying the Label

The creative behind this Singapore-based fashion label talks her passion for painting, her interest in introducing new technologies to her design process and the current state of the fashion scene in the city.


 

Yi Ling, Ying the Label | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Instinctive, attentively minimalistic but far from the ordinary, Li Ying uses fabrics as her canvas and she takes wearable art to greater heights through her chic hand-painted prints.

After studying for four years in Melbourne, Li Ying noticed a lack of vibrancy in fashion on her return to Singapore. She soon filled the gap by translating her passion for painting into fashion and hence, created Ying the Label.

Enthused by the simple things in life, her designs are created using abstract brush strokes dipped in whimsical colour palettes. The result? Unique and poetic prints that transcend seasons and inspire you to had a splash of colour to your wardrobe.

Li Ying shares how digital printing has affected her design process, how her personal style translates to her designs as well as her approach to business and some useful tips for emerging designers in this engaging interview.

It’s all about being yourself. You need to feel the passion for inspiring people with what you do. Let your designs reflect who you are. Be truly passionate – you will realise this is what keeps you up all night, and it will be all worth it.

 

Li Ying, Ying the Label | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Image: Founder, Li Ying

Tell us about yourself as a designer. How did you decide to become a designer/founder of your own label?

I studied in Melbourne for 4 years, and the fashion there was always vibrant and colourful. People were dressed in prints! When I came back to Singapore, I realised I could not find anything like what I found in Australia, and I thought I needed to make Singapore fashion a tad bit more colourful.

How did the idea for Ying the Label transpire?

I always had a passion for painting. Therefore, I decided that I wanted to use my passion, and hopefully talent and translate them into wearable art. That was how Ying started.

Who is behind the brand and what roles do they play?

I am the person in charge of designs and conceptualising. I do have a great family who supports me, and 2 staff who helps me with marketing and sales, as well as operations.

Li Ying, Ying the Label | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Tell us about your design process.

I get inspired by my everyday, and usually by emotions. Colour palettes are highly dependent on my thoughts and emotions. I love painting abstract flowers and nature. Hence, I draw my inspirations from landscapes and nature, but I paint them as my own interpretation. 

Every art piece has a story behind it. Once I am done painting, I then discuss with my team on how this can be translated onto fabrics and made into clothes. Hence, my silhouettes are not usually complicated, but very easy to wear, as I like the art to take the spotlight.

How was this process affected when introducing digital printing? Was there a difference in method/quality since you’ve used digital printing methods in previous collections?

Digital print, especially the technology that Epson provides, allow me to firstly replicate my art pieces almost exactly onto fabrics. Also, it gives me the flexibility of printing lesser minimum order quantities (MOQ), and I am able to make my art pieces more exclusive. The turn around time is fast, and it really makes the whole process more efficient.

Tell us more about your collection, The Moment.

The moment was inspired by my exact thoughts of the moment. I was going through a time where I felt that I needed to take the time to enjoy the moments I was in – be it the happiness and contentment I ought to have from my achievements to the times where I struggled but found a silver lining. These are emotions we all go through, and I used abstract brush strokes to tell these stories.

What is your take on integrating fashion with technology?

I am a big supporter. I believe as traditional as fashion can get, it is important that we consider using technology to improve our processes and make our products more reliable.

It takes the right people and the right opportunity before we can take things to the next level. We are really lucky that right now, we are seeing lots of support from TaFf, as well as giants like Epson.

 

Li Ying, Ying the Label | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Image: Ying the Label at FUZE FashionIsTech 2017

What are your top tips for emerging designers?

I would say I am still an emerging designer, but to me – it’s all about being yourself. You need to feel the passion for inspiring people with what you do. Let your designs reflect who you are. Be truly passionate – you will realise this is what keeps you up all night, and it will be all worth it.

I think everyone will need some help at some point in time, and thus, I truly am thankful for TAFF’s help so far. They have opened up new doors and channels and this is something to consider when you are starting out.

How would you describe your personal style? Does it translate to your designs?

Yeah, I mean there are days I dress in solids, but even so, I love clashing the colours. I enjoy dressing vibrantly. I embrace prints a lot!

How would you describe the style/vibe of your city?

Singapore is an interesting place. We are a very vibrant city, because of our diversification. I think I can someday paint something that reflects Singapore as a nation.

In your opinion, what’s the current state of the fashion industry in Singapore?

I think we are in a good position, as we have always been a star in Asia. However, the creative industry will take some time to really gain exposure. We have talents, I believe, but it is not easy to get our voices heard because we are still a small nation and creative expression is not as simple as it looks.

It takes the right people and the right opportunity before we can take things to the next level. We are really lucky that right now, we are seeing lots of support from Taff, as well as giants like Epson. For instance, the recent collaboration with Taff and Epson at FashionTech has opened up doors for me in terms of manufacturing choices, as well as new connections.

What’s your approach to business?

Make mistakes along the way, but never make it twice. Be out there, and be humble. Only then, you get into the right conversations, and you make real friends who will be there to grow with you.

What do you do in your downtime?

Paint? Other than that, whenever I feel stressed, I go for a run. It gives me time to think.

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All images courtesy of Ying the Label, Li Ying and TaFf.

Ying the Label is available online and at these stockists.

Chiang Xiaojun, Pleatation

Chiang Xiaojun, the founder of Singapore-based boutique, PLEATATION, reveals how she fused fashion with technology in her latest Resort 1718 collection.


 

Chiang Xiaojun, Pleatation | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa
Chiang Xiaojun, Pleatation | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

From doodling dresses during her pre-teen days to attaining a degree in Fashion Design, Xiaojun’s path to pursuing her dream may have been clear-cut but the process was far from glamorous. Nonetheless, the countless hours behind the sewing machine paid off as Xiaojun is now the founder and designer of Singapore’s first pleat-focus concept label, Pleatation.

Launched in 2012, the women’s fashion label carries a multitude of designs and styles with various patterns and choices of pleats. One of the things we love about Xiaojun is that she is always evolving. 

She recently collaborated with Textile & Fashion Federation Singapore (TaFf) and took part in FashionisTech 2017, an initiative that encourages the integration of fashion and technology. In her latest Resort 1718 collection, Xiaojun adopts new digital printing techniques using innovative dye sublimation and direct-to-garment printing technologies from printing company Epson Singapore. Xiaojun tells more.

I think it is really important to move with the times. I believe that it would be a perfect blend to be able to balance a digitalised brand that still has a human aesthetic.

 

Chiang Xiaojun, Pleatation | Behind the Seams | Travelshopa

Image: Founder, Chiang Xiaojun

Pleatation is a pleat-focused concept store. How did the idea of using pleats as a foundation of your designs come to be?

Ever since I graduated from fashion school, an opportunity came by for me to run a pleating production company. Since then, we have been doing all kinds of pleating production for designers and manufacturers.

I realised that this pleating technique was really an art (a dying art in fact!) and it held so many possibilities in creation. So I started doodling again, and that’s how Pleatation started! We became a brand that focuses in all sorts of pleated products, not just in fashion, but also in stationery, home and lifestyle.

How did your collaboration with FashionisTech 2017/TaFf happen?

So middle of last year, TaFf approached me on this interesting project, where they wanted to fuse technology with fashion. The partner they had in mind for me was Epson, a company that specialises in digital printing. I thought it was a good mix of brands, as my design sense is also strong in colour and prints – so it was good to be able to see how we could work together in bringing out the kind of vibrancy I wanted in my designs through digital printing.

You’ve collaborated with Epson to use digital printing in your latest Resort 1718 collection, Le Enchant. Tell us more about the design process. 

For the Resort 1718 collection, the inspiration really came about mostly from wanting to challenge the vibrancy of colours Epson printers could achieve. I wanted to find out if they could really print a colour that was vibrant, and not stray from my original artwork. I came about a beautiful image of an enchanted forest and started researching more about different forests in the world and how they look during different seasons and weathers.

I got inspired by the colour palette and decided to adapt and translate it into this collection. At the start, I was pretty concerned that the colours of the print might appear too dull, and may not represent my brand very well. So I also prepared different versions of the original artwork in different vibrancy and saturation levels just to ensure I could reprint in time if the colour didn’t come out as anticipated.

Surprisingly, the result was better than I expected. The colours were very vibrant – in fact, even more, saturated than I expected it to be! Through this collection, I realised that this was also a great way to create a stronger branding for Pleatation, by subtly having the brand name printed onto the fabrics without being too loud or too showy.

What is your take on integrating fashion with technology?

I think it is really important to move with the times. Technology is so updated now, we even have ‘sewbots‘ that can do the sewing for you. It feels like one day we wouldn’t even need a human production team anymore. Having said that, we definitely still need the human touch. I believe that it would be a perfect blend to be able to balance a digitalised brand that still has a human aesthetic.

Do you have any advice for emerging designers/new store owners?

It’s important to know what’s trending and improving around you. With the advancement of technology, it would be beneficial to learn more about it and see how it can be advantageous in growing your brand.

In your opinion, what is the current and future state of the fashion industry in Singapore?

I feel that Singaporeans have taken a step up compared to 5 years ago. Consumers are daring to dress, and they are more fashion conscious, constantly keeping tabs on the trends around the world. I think that’s great, but I feel that our culture is still not open enough in setting trends in Singapore (accepted trends, that is!). We tend to follow trends based on European styles and what is popular at the moment.

What is your wardrobe philosophy?

Colours! I think what you wear speaks a lot about yourself.

How would you describe your personal style? Does it translate to your designs?

I love colours! I do have my occasional days of all-black wear, those are probably my lazy days when I just don’t feel like dressing up. But on usual days, I love prints and happy colours. It really brightens up your day and styling up with accessories is always fun!

Yes, it definitely translates to my designs – I have always been with colours even when I was younger, I love to mix and match colours and prints. You can totally see them in all the colours and prints available in our store.

Shop the Story

All images courtesy of Pleatation and Chiang Xiaojun.

Shop online and at various stockists in Asia.

THE COMPLEAT STORE
#03-33 Raffles City
252 North Bridge Road
Singapore 179103

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