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This designer started an ‘anti-fashion’ brand after witnessing the industry’s waste

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OF THE VARIOUS POSITIONS YOU’VE HELD AND THE BOSSES YOU HAVE WORKED FOR, WHICH DO YOU THINK HAS SHAPED YOU THE MOST?

The most inspiring role to date is, without a doubt, my first job as collections designer for luxury label Exception de Mixmind (EdM) in Guangzhou, China. Funnily, I first discovered EdM as an intern trends analyst at WGSN London, the leading fashion trends agency. They’re a cult brand well known and revered by fashion insiders who are into the arty side of things, unknown to commercial fashion. I remember seeing pictures and videos of founder Ma Ke’s show at the V&A museum with all its organic textures and handmade elements. They were so beautiful and emotive, and so aligned with my personal style – organic, earthy, nature-inspired. I wrote in and sent my portfolio, flew to Shanghai then Guangzhou, and landed myself a role there as their first foreign designer. EdM was a dream – more art school than commercial fashion company, with its own in-house atelier for all sorts of development from hand-knitting, macrame and crochet to printing and dyeing. In China, you get to work on a scale like no other. The founders are designers by training so it was conceptually a very strong brand that also had a lot of commercial success. As a young designer, I got to experiment a lot.

I NOTICED ONE OF YOUR EARLIEST JOBS WAS AT THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE. THAT’S A LITTLE SURPRISING GIVEN YOUR CAREER IN FASHION. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

I believe that most of us have multiple sides to our personalities and interests. It’s just a matter of whether we venture out to try other paths. I was always quite academic from a young age, so Mindef was just a natural progression, the ‘safe choice’ after my first degree in English Literature & European Studies at NUS. At the same time, I’ve also always loved art and drawing, and was always doodling designs for as long as I can remember. I left home for London at the age of 25 to pursue my studies in fashion.

I NOTICED YOU HAVE SEVERAL DEGREES, MOST RECENTLY ONE FROM CAMBRIDGE. ARE YOU ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO IS JUST ALWAYS HUNGRY FOR KNOWLEDGE?

Yes! It’s almost as if I need to try a new career path every 10 years. The online course from Cambridge was in Business Sustainability Management – I went in with the mindset that as a designer, I have a good understanding of product/technical sustainability (supply chain, product life cycle etc.) but not enough business overview/framework to truly make an impact. That was an amazing course; I learnt a lot from my course mates who were all global corporate execs in some of the most influential firms. I felt like a novice as a designer in a world of corporate jargon, but realised that sustainability is at heart a creative concept – something I can identify with.

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