If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times. Time flies. Just last year, we made our runway debut at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week (KLFW) 2015 with the Derecho collection by Sher by Twenty3. This year round, we showcased two (yes, TWO!) collections, consisting of 12 looks each from our sub-brands, Sher and Lin. In commemorating the success of the show and the months of hard work our designers have put in, we sat down for a talk with them to find out more about what got these young and talented souls into designing the clothes we love, and their inspirations behind this year’s collections.
Our designers with Twenty3 Founder & CEO, Sherlyn Tan
From left: Vivien, Hoi Cheng, Sherlyn, Yen Yon, Sobu
Q. How did you get started in fashion?
SoBu: Sketching has always been my medium of self-expression. I would literally vandalize all the tables in school with my pencil, sketching human proportions and garments. However, social expectations hindered me from doing what I liked. My grades improved tremendously in high school and from there, my parents, teachers and friends had this expectation of me that I felt I needed to conform to. I started studying Chemical Engineering in college under a generous scholarship. It felt good that I wasn’t burdening my parents with the cost of my education. It was until I did not secure a Public Service Department (JPA) scholarship that got me really thinking about my major. I thought, if I were to spend money on education, then I might as well invest in something that I like, which is fashion. I did not give any more thought and got myself a place in an art school. And that’s where the journey began.
After graduation, I started as a Visual Merchandiser with Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge. Then, I moved to Khoon Hooi as an assistant designer. And later, I found myself here, at Twenty3!
Hoi Cheng: I have always been attracted to all things art. I remember when I was young, I would draw, paint and dabble in Chinese calligraphy whenever I got the chance. As I grew older, I somehow started to pay more attention to fashion.
When I left high school with my SPM certificate, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I had thought about the safe and popular choice of studying Nutrition, but I was really hoping to be able to ply my trade in the fashion industry in the future, something that I knew I would enjoy doing instead of you know, working in some other profession with the sole purpose of making an income. So with encouragement from friends and family, I took up a fashion design course in KL, which many might think is a risky choice given that I had scored straight A’s for my SPM. I completed the final year of my degree on a 1-year twinning programme at the Paris American Academy in well, Paris, during which time I was lucky enough to have worked alongside some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Elie Saab and Rick Owens. After my degree, I worked as an intern under the renowned Malaysian designer Jonathan Liang at his studio in Paris and at the end of my internship, I came back to Malaysia to launch my career in the local fashion design industry.
Vivien: Well, it kind of just started right after high school with me getting a place in the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design course in London. At 17, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do in life so I figured, "Why not?". After all, I've always leaned towards the Arts compared to Maths and Science (which I'm terrible at). During the duration of that diploma course, I got to explore different forms of art, from sculpture, to photography and, fashion. This helped fortify my desire to pursue fashion design. I then got accepted into the Fashion Print degree course at Central Saint Martins. It was so liberating to have the freedom to create whatever you want at my time at CSM. I later had the opportunity to intern with Mary Katrantzou in London, and that really reinforced my love of prints. Artsy and creative has always been my 'thing' so I really can't imagine doing anything else.
Yen Yon: I have always had a passion for fashion since I was little. My parents would buy me dolls and I would be curious about how, and what, their pretty little dresses were made of. That's how my interest in fashion slowly grew. I followed my passions and continued to learn more about fashion by pursuing a fashion design degree in Sydney, where I had the chance to train with Leonardo Salinas. After all that I have learned and experienced in my years in the fashion industry, I must say that fashion is so much more than just making clothes.
Q. Tell us more about this year’s KLFW collection. Let’s start with Under One Small Star, the collection by Sher?
Sher by Twenty3 on the KLFW '16 runway
So this year, I worked with Hoi Cheng on the collection.
Our inspiration behind it is the idea of evolution. Specifically, evolution from the stress and issues women face in our hypermasculine society. For example, being insecure about the way you look, or feeling like you are not enough, worthless. The collection consists of 12 looks, all representing this persona of an evolved and empowered woman. For example, the deconstructive way the fabric is worn conveys destruction. It is about being destroyed before finding strength to rebuild yourself, coming out stronger than before. The colour palette is subtle and faded, and the collection starts from white and slowly turns darker to grey, black and navy. All of this gives the idea of the transition into a darker, stronger entity.Q. What about for the Lin collection?
Lin by Twenty3 on the KLFW '16 runway
Vivien: For our Where The Wild Things Are collection, Yen Yon and I found inspiration in the organic movements from the Art Nouveau period. Characteristic of this time was silhouettes of teapots, vases and teacups and scenes of birds and flowers. With this inspiration, each look from the collection features hand-illustrated flowers, birds and insects, swirling together in harmony with a fun, cheerful and romantic colour palette of pastels. I personally love working with printed textiles so it was really fun getting to design the prints that goes along with each outfit.
Q. Who is the Sher and Lin woman?
The Sher woman is a "fighter"
SoBu and Hoi Cheng:
woman is a "fighter". She has strength but never lets it cloud her femininity. She is fit, not just to look good, but because she understands the value of self-improvement and self-empowerment through fitness. She values herself, her life, her work, her aesthetic and her philosophy. She owns her life, her goals, her dreams and herself. She believes that every individual is solely responsible for giving meaning to her life and living it passionately.
The Lin woman walks down the street with a 'devil may care' attitude
Vivien and Yen Yon: Everything, from the colour palette, embroidery, the fabric, the silhouettes and prints, is made to fit the Lin woman. Picture this. A woman walks down the street in a fabulous printed dress, smile on her lips and rolls through life with a ‘devil may care’ attitude. That’s the Lin woman. She knows she has strength and confidence. She knows she's invincible.
So do you fancy yourself a Sher or Lin woman? Maybe a combination of the two?
Check out all 12 looks from the KLFW Sher
, and all 12 looks from the Lin