Interview with Max.Tan
Why and how did you get into fashion design?
I grew up under the influence of my seamstress mum. So I was exposed to garment making even before I knew what fashion really was. Following high school, I enrolled myself in an arts school in Singapore, majoring in Fashion Design.
What do you love about what you do?
Breaking rules and seeing concepts and sketches come to live. Most rewarding – seeing how these initial sketches become an essential or a treasured part of someone’s wardrobe.
What impact would you like your work to have?
It sounds cliché, but it really is what interests me at the moment. They may come in the form of questions, new experiences etc. Looking internally into my own past and emotions happen during the design process while I inject the label’s DNA into the garments. More recently, events have influenced the inspirations of the collection, but most of us are pretty nonchalant to it. The collections do not aim to address these issues, but rather, I hope to get more people talking and addressing these problems through discussion of the collections’ themes.
Talk to us about your new collection. Where did the idea come from?
The A/W 2016-17 collection takes inspiration from both religion as well as military. I try reflecting in my collections, my thoughts and experiences over the last 6 months and translating them into the story of my collections. Numerous social unrest and violent episodes have unfolded over the last few years. I guess these events left an impression subconsciously during the design process.
What message/point are you trying to convey through this collection?
Religion is a double edge sword. With peace as an end goal, it can and has worked the opposite way. It goes the same for military forces. I am amused how something that stems from peace can possibly have violent outcomes.
What are some of the challenges you have faced since starting the Max.Tan brand?
Besides trying to introduce my brand to a wider audience internationally, back home in Singapore, the fashion industry is dealing with a pressing problem. With the recent closures of many Singaporean brands, it is clear that these Singaporean brands are no longer relavant with Singaporeans. It is sad that our homegrown brands have not been able to find a footing here. It takes a generation or a few generations to change mindsets. I hope design and appreciation for good design will not be pegged with price competition in future. It is looking gloomy in the short term.
How have you dealt with these challenges to keep your brand relevant and unique, standing out from the crowd?
Everything old is new and new is old. In this fickle fashion industry, it is tough to mind read and hit jackpot with one collection. Hitting jackpot and standing out is also nothing without consistency. I would rather be recognized for my craft and be in a long running marathon, rather than come out tops in a short sprint.
What advice would you give to anyone facing similar challenges?
Perseverence, hard work, determination is key to running this designing marathon.
What would you say is wrong with the industry today?
The need for instant gratification and the decreasing amount of appreciation for quality is something that we need to address. Consumers buying behaviors are changing. Fashion designers do not need to address or condone this bad buying behavior as they belong another market segment. However, the industry is not doing anything to connect with the younger audience and educate about quality, what good design is, or even good concepts. What do we end up with in 20 years time? A working class with bad buying behavior, and good garments will only be seen as museum worthy and are off the streets. But fashion is meant to be experienced and worn.
What sort of changes would you like to see take place within the fashion industry that you feel would help your brand?
Slow down the process. If the solution to feeding these instant gratifications is a mindless race with fast fashion to get to the customer, maybe a simple solution is to have a tighter control over what is to be shared at a fashion show?
What makes you fearless?
A pack of cigarettes and 5 cups of coffee, daily.
Interview by Thomasina Legend
Photography: May Lin Le Goff
Model: Monika Burkot
Makeup: Beno Lim (Mac Cosmetics)
Hair: Elyn Khoo