Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Eco Chic Design Award Finalist Interview: Malaysia

The Eco Chic Design Award Grand Final was two weeks ago, already. What a whirlwind it was!  The night is still fresh in my mind. Such inspiration and creativity that I got to witness for myself, but I didn't get a chance yet to share the interview with Malaysian finalist Veronica Lee with you.  She's a Malaysian girl like me (can you feel that national pride?)  While she didn't walk away with any of the awards handed out that night, she did win the Ford Design Challenge in which she and Swedish finalist Amandah Andersson created a lovely outfit using recycled parts found in a car.  In three hours. Have a look at the creations, you'd never believe they were once car parts.

Tell us a little about yourself.  How has growing up in Malaysia/Singapore shaped who you are?
I’m 22 this year and I’m from Malaysia. Being in a country with lots of races and cultures is really nice because you tend to see and experience different types of colors of life.  I think that’s how I got creative; I imagine a lot of things. Malaysia is a really nice country.

How did you become interested in fashion and how did you get where you are today?
I love music a lot and since I was young, I’ve been thinking that music and fashion link well together.  And I really like fashion.  I read a lot of fashion magazines when I was young.   At first my parents didn’t really let me pursue fashion.  So I persuaded them and I showed them that I really wanted to do it, and started by making clothes for my Barbies. Then my dad realized that I am talented in this way, so he finally agreed.

What are some of your fashion influences? 
I am a very emotional person.  I love a collection that really has a story behind it.  I love how the story translates into a collection and I think it’s really meaningful that way.  I’m also a big fan of architecture and shapes, and I love clothes that are oversized and have a lot of shapes in them. 

When did you learn about sustainability in fashion and what have you learned as part of your journey to become a Finalist for the Eco Chic Design Awards?
I didn’t know much about sustainable fashion when I was still studying in Malaysia.  Only when I got to Singapore to do my degree did I get to know more, as we have classes and modules on sustainable fashion.  It’s really nice to see how every action we take is going to make a difference to the environment, to nature, to society.  As a fashion designer, if we could reduce or reuse waste, it would be making a lot of difference in the world.

Describe the inspiration behind the collection you are developing for the Grand Final? What sustainable techniques have you used?
For my The EcoChic Design Award 2014/15 collection, I’ve been using lots of fabric waste from previous collections.  It’s really interesting to see how that waste, something that seems so insignificant, can be turned into something that can be worn on the runway.  I think that’s really nice. 

I tried to limit myself.  My favourite piece is the grey look, where I don’t have any cut lines on it.  It’s really interesting to see how I can put a piece of 4 metre fabric on a mannequin and just drape and it can become something very new, something I’ve never seen before.   So that’s why it’s really exciting.

With this collection for The EcoChic Design Award 2014/15, I got my inspiration from the ancient empresses of China.  And I contrast that with the clothing women wear in the modern day.  So if you look closely at my collection, you’ll find the details of ancient China, like empress clothes, very flowing and feminine.   But I also included modern details and styles in it so it looks more contemporary.

Zero-waste draping is one of the major techniques I used, as well as reconstruction of second hand garments and up-cycling.

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Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your answers with me, Veronica.  I'm excited about how you'll be able to share some of what you've learned about sustainable fashion design with our fellow Malaysians.

A quick update: 

Singapore Finalist, Laurensia Salim (who I interviewed here on my blog) was awarded a special prize by John Hardy on the evening of the Grand Final. She will be going on an educational trip to John Hardy's design and production facilities in Bali where she will learn more about sustainability in their design, production and business practices (they are the leading sustainable jewellery brand).

Good things are in store for both these Southeast Asian designers, I know it!

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