What was the idea behind this collection?
As this was my graduate collection, the inspiration behind it was always going to relate back to my own personal story. I was raised in a traditional migrant family, so there was always an emphasis on academic success and growing up I was convinced I wanted to be an optometrist. To appease expectations, I ended up pursuing optometry at the University of Melbourne. But a year into my degree, when I was supposed to be attending lectures, I was instead drawing up new designs. So eventually, I made the defiant decision to go and study fashion. Titled “Dissection 101”, this collection explores the idea of generational conflict by dissecting the story of “what my parents wanted me to do” versus. “what I wanted to do” as an attempt to find my own self-actualisation.
How did you execute those complex ideas?
At the beginning of each collection, I tend to steer away from traditional mood boards and prefer rather to make “concept boards” that influence the collection’s mood, colour palette and fabrication. For Dissection 101, I started with a photograph of a storm cloud. Within this image existed a dichotomy of darkness and light, which was symbolic of the tension that existed throughout my upbringing. I then had the image printed on glass, which I used sculpturally with an old dissection kit from when I was studying optometry – this was my way of allowing the audience to participate in the dissection of my story. What resulted was something very clinical, so technical knits were combined with leather and denims were treated with silicon coatings. Raw finishes and zips also featured throughout to reinforce the theme of dissection.
What did you hope to capture in this shoot?
Concepts are subjective, so with such a talented team, I really wanted the shoot to be a collaboration of ideas and allow everyone complete creative freedom. For me, mood is everything, so after we discussed the inspiration behind the collection, we all agreed on a mood that would reflect on that dichotomy of darkness and light. A reference to ancient Greek sculpture also helped emphasise that feeling of chiaroscuro, which in my opinion allowed the shoot to go to another level.
Tell us about your fashion education – what was the experience like, and how did it shape your graduate collection?
I completed my undergraduate degree in Melbourne at the Whitehouse Institute of Design. It’s a three-year course, with the first two years dedicated solely to womenswear. As a menswear designer, I did find those years challenging, but at the same time completely necessary. By the time my final year came around, it was so refreshing to finally do menswear that in a way it was like the final chapter in reaching my own self actualisation.In between studies, I also managed a menswear label that specialises in made-to-measure suits and shirts. Whilst it wasn’t design in the purest sense, I did learn invaluable lessons in the nuances of cut and tailoring, which assisted me when I was patternmaking my own collection.
Which designers do you look up to?
My own designs are heavily influenced by form and texture, so naturally I have a great appreciation for architecture, particularly Brutalist architecture. Louis I. Kahn’s work is hugely inspiring and his philosophy maybe even more so. There’s a great video of him giving a lecture where he has the “conversation with a brick” – it’s an ideology I try to reflect on regularly. As far as designers go, Rick Owens is an obvious one given my fondness of Brutalism. Otherwise, I really like what’s coming out of the UK at the moment by labels such as Elena Dawson, Paul Harnden and P.R. Patterson. Again, it’s their brand philosophies that I really admire in a market that is now so saturated by fast and disposable fashion.
What do you plan to do now following graduation? Is starting your own label a goal or would you like to work first for others?
For now, I’m leaving all my options open. But since graduation, I’ve had such an overwhelming response from people wanting to buy pieces from the collection that I’m planning to launch my own menswear label, MNDATORY, sometime later this year. In collaboration with a friend, MNDATORY will focus on outerwear initially, with the first capsule collection scheduled for the next spring/summer season.