S E R I O U S . M I N I M A L . F R A G I L E
BUT NEVER WEAK
Interview Latoya P. Henry
Approaching design with a minimalist aesthetic, constructing garments that play with volume, shape, masculinity and femininity. Renowned designer Max. Tan synthesis of minimalism and intricate cuts, reshapes the aspects of contemporary garment design forming unforeseen silhouettes. Gathering inspiration on an excursion to India was the foundation of Max. Tan’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection entitled “Infinity may be everything, but it’s also nothing”. An exploration of hybrid garments inspired by the curves of the infinity symbol, creating voluminous shapes and forms, effortlessly hung lightly to the body of the wearer. Examining further on the concepts and inspirations of Max. Tan’s recent collection, the designer takes a moment to share the rooted details behind his SS15 collection and the label of Max. Tan.
How important is individualism for a designer, and how do you manifest a distinguished identity through design?
I think it’s very important for a designer to have a strong unique identity. From a brands perspective, I try to manifest my identity no just through designs, but also visual communication (campaigns and lookbooks), collaterals, collaborations etc. With all these elements in place, I think it’s easier to relate to this particular lifestyle/brand than just trying to convey my identity through my garments.
In the area of garment design, I hope to distinguish myself with my cuts. Minimal, draping and a new way of interpreting westerns dressing norms. Being geographically located in Singapore and growing up in a myriad of cultures, one can clearly tell that max.tan is Asia. But its hard to pin point where or which part of Asia it’s from.
You prefer a minimalistic approach towards design, from your perspective, what are your views between clean and excessive styles of design?
While I do prefer a minimalistic approach towards design, my garments are cut with sumptuous use of fabrics. The balance between staying minimal and true to my beliefs while not being excessive even with my cuts is a fine line to walk.
I wouldn’t dismiss decorative surfaces approach to designing. I love textures as well. But to me, form comes first. A question that we always ask ourselves in the studio is, “what if all the details are stripped away from this shirt, what is interesting about the cut?”
Describe the design aesthetic behind “Infinity may be everything, but it’s also nothing” spring/summer 2015 collection?
Inspiration and concept/execution are usually two different things at the studio. The collection was first inspired by a vacation in India. The idea of re-incarnation, karma and traditional robes were the starting point. The idea of infinity may be interesting to some (and to me initially); it encompasses everything, but what’s the point if it eventually leads to nothing or a stagnant state?
Tell us about the specifics you wanted to distinguish with your spring/summer 2015 collection compared to previous works, and did you explore new techniques with this collection?
My eyes were “violated” by the amount of colors I saw in India. For once, I felt really inspired to introduce some colors to the collection. In terms of cutting techniques, I toyed with circular seams and exploring the relationship between these seams. I love to explore the space between a wearer’s body and the garment itself. I often use geometrical and sharp cuts in the execution of my designs. This time round, I opted for something softer, more organic to explore this complex space.
With every design and designer there is a purpose behind the concepts they’ve developed. What is your sole purpose as a designer and what do you hope to achieve?
Every collection’s concept starts with a question on construction or garment realization. I try to seek the answers through the end product - garments. The collections are very personal to me, and I’m glad to have sustained a career thus far with my “questions” and “answers”.
Exactly what is the message you want to translate through the person wearing your collections, and who is the ideal Max. Tan woman?
If clothes can speak, what would they say? This is something my customers would relate to me. On my FW2010-11 collection, flat collapsible garments fall into draped pieces when worn. I like to explore these “magic” moments in designing.
I wouldn’t put a specific name to an ideal max.tan woman. I think while having an ideal is great, staying relevant is more important to me. There have been a few muses who are relevant to the studio at different collections.
For the new generation of designers following your path, what are the four essential elements a designer should possess?
Be curious, stay hungry, be open, stay true to yourself.