From my early teens, I began to learn how to construct garments at high school. My grandmother was an amazing costume cutter and designer so she helped me learn a lot of the technical skills. It was not particularly ‘fashionable’ but I loved the process of creating and constructing my own vision in 3D. I had no idea about the industry but it seemed like a logical progression to go and study Fashion Design. From around 16 years onwards, I began to take it seriously doing short courses, visiting London galleries and preparing a portfolio ready to apply for a degree course. In a way it was kind of the opposite path to most of my peers who started with a love of fashion and then began learning now to sew and pattern cut once we began our BA.
I studied at the University of Westminster in London. I definitely wanted to go to a course which had an industry placement year and they do an amazing job of finding the best labels to intern with. I was lucky enough to go to Céline for my first placement and to Marc Jacobs in New York last summer. I also loved that we had our own desk space -
I’m not the kind of person who wants to fight for a place to work at 8 in the morning !
My graduate collection was inspired by the Dakota Access Pipeline and the controversy surrounding the project. Not a lot of people had heard about it and there was not a lot of media coverage surrounding the issue. I felt that exposure was key for people to understand what was truly happening over there. My generation in particular has been brought up to understand human impact on climate change and natural resources and I couldn’t believe that we had reached a point where citizens in the ‘Land of the Free’ were having to fight for their own clean water. The situation is very complex and unfortunately has not had a happy ending but I don’t want it to be forgotten about. I really wanted to demonstrate the conflict visually and looked at protestor garments, military wear and the impact of oil on landscapes. The resulting garments are a collision of all the elements surrounding DAPL - a corrupted classically corporate Houndstooth print, sullied hems dragged through oil and bandana style collars worn by so many of the protesters.
I am currently working on a new collection with the hopes of marrying sustainability with high end fashion. This inevitably slows down the production but I think it is something hugely important to consider given the current situation with fast fashion and textile waste. Now that I finally have the time to thoroughly explore the slow fashion ideology, I want to make sure I do it justice and consider each step thoughtfully.
Images courtesy of Emily Tan
Follow the designer on instagram @emilyhmtan
All Image Credits This Page. Photography by Jo Chukualim . Models Alessia Vaccaro and Pippa Cole