Despite her beginnings in fashion design, Malaysian-born designer Grace Tan approaches her clothing and fabric works from an anti-fashion perspective and is influenced by facets of architecture, craft, mathematics and even Japanese confectionary with her 2007 sweets-inspired collection of French silk chiffon pieces titled, ‘Rakugan’.
Yet, it is not, as it sounds; an antithesis of fashion and its accompanying culture, but a willingness to stretch and blur the boundaries between fashion, fine art and architecture.
According to the designer, “fashion” is a system of trends, styles and looks, craft and commerce and its anti-fashion counterpart expands on this notion.
Tan says the idea of “anti-fashion” should be a vehicle for new discoveries while giving light to those things already in existence, and not as something rebelling against mainstream fashion.
“Anti-fashion is a tipping point, unexpected, undefined, dynamic and courageous,” she says.
After graduating from Singapore’s Temasek Polytechnic with a Diploma in Apparel Design and Merchandising and designing the women’s wear range for prestigious local fashion company Song & Kelly Tan started her own company Kwodrent in 2003.
“When I first started Kwodrent, I was pretty much running away from fashion and its associations,” Tan says.
“I was both challenged and frustrated at the state of fashion in my immediate environment at that time. It was a good thing (though) because it made me look for other fashion.”
Tan admits that it is the “other fashion” that then became her version of “anti-fashion” which, in an ironic twist, tends to hark back to traditional fashion.
Intrigued by the idea that clothing, like objects, structures and architecture are “layers” around the body; Tan investigated the idea of fashion as a value that can be transformed into other forms and functions rather than as a purely physical entity.
“I started to question the relationship of fashion with other things that surround us,” she says.
“So far, I’ve managed to translate a dress into an audio composition and neckpieces into graphic landscapes using coordinates.
“The possibilities are endless and I’m only at the starting point.”
Photography: Derek Swalwell (portrait), Darren Soh