“Dress For No One Else But Yourself” – Singapore Designer Max Tan Shares His Inspirations And Style Tips
October 26, 2016
“Serious but never severe, minimal but never simple, fragile but never weak” – these words from Singapore designer Max Tan best explain the appeal and success of his label MAX.TAN, and why it has garnered many fans here and overseas.
Max has certainly come a long way. The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) alumni has gotten international recognition at shows such as the prestigious Modefabriek show in Amsterdam and also won second place at the China Fashion Creation Contest 2010. This year, he was selected to take part in the Fashion Futures 2.0 Programme and to collaborate with tech giant Microsoft for a collection at the Singapore Fashion Week.
We sit down with Max before his big show to learn more about his design process, style inspirations and also ask him for some fashion tips every woman should know.
MAX.TAN Spring/Summer 17 will be presented at Singapore Fashion Week on October 26, 9.30 pm at National Gallery Auditorium Foyer.
"Dress For No One Else But Yourself" - Singapore Designer Max Tan Shares His Inspirations And Style Tips
On The New Collection
Can you share with us what are your influences and inspirations for the new Spring/Summer 17 collection.
Max Tan: “The challenge for me in my new collection is to really deconstruct familiar (masculine/feminine) details and these include all the elements that I am usually not comfortable working with: Overtly feminine details. We tried to re-imagine feminine ruffles, corsetry laceworks, fringe dresses – making them more masculine and at the same time, taking masculine silhouettes and garment types such as a denim jacket, strong padded shoulders, nautical sweaters and making them softer.”
Your Spring/Summer 17 collection is also an exercise in androgyny, what’s your idea of androgyny and how do you think both women and men can relate to it?
Max Tan: “I think androgyny is more than just a man in a frock or a woman in a suit. As we are seeing more gender blurring of the lines on the international runways, it struck me and my team that being masculine or feminine (or being neither) is all in one’s mind. For example, you can give a man who is used to wearing a T-shirt and jeans a printed suit and he feels feminine even when it’s not.
“I guess that’s the whole starting point of the collection. The people that influence the collection are my team members, we are with each other almost every single day so it’s hard not to see traces of them in the collection! Particularly, Luth Seah who has fronted my lookbooks for many seasons is always inspiring.”
We also see the use of very strong monotone lines and sculptural graphics in your new collection, are you influenced specifically by a certain style like Art Deco or by certain practices like architecture, for example?
Max Tan: “Definitely! Fashion inspired by other people’s fashion works does not interest me that much. It is very easy to fall prey to “designing from memory – copying” by doing that. I love the works of Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The strict line works, the relationship between the observer and the space itself, inspire my silhouettes.
“Of how the building interacts with nature; sunlight casting lined shadows, the simplicity of Ando-san’s architecture designs and the zen and quiet confidence of the structures are elements that I constantly revisit.
“I take these observations and then apply these concepts in the way I design. The outcome does not necessary look like a garment version of Ando-san’s works. But like a pupil following a school of thought, application is more important than replicating to me.”
On The Future Of Womenswear
Where do you see womenswear moving towards in the near future, specifically in Singapore? Do you think there’s a blurring of lines in terms of gender specific dressing, and do you think women here will become more open to dressing in a modern aesthetic like yours?
Max Tan: “We’ve seen a lot of women who are more daring to express themselves through fashion over the years. Since I started six years ago, it has really changed quite a bit! I think a lot of people find fault in the fact that the majority of Singaporeans do not have much knowledge in fashion, but hey, we’re just slightly over 50 years old as a nation! I do think we are getting there!
“The Internet age has exposed more end consumers to a huge variety of styles. I think it’s only going to become more open and get more interesting from now on.”
On The Definition Of A Stylish Woman
To you, what does it mean for a woman to express herself in style and fashion? What do you think defines a stylish woman?
Max Tan: “Confidence. Dressing for no one else but yourself.”
On 10 Essential Pieces Every Woman Must Have
What are the 10 essential pieces you think every modern woman should have in her wardrobe?
Max Tan: “A crisp white shirt, palazzo pants, a casual T-shirt in luxe fabrication, well-fitted jeans and a tailored jacket. All five in two colourways, black and white. You’ll have a complete wardrobe to mix and match around with!”
On The MAX.TAN Star
We’ve heard that many celebrities, local and international, have worn MAX.TAN. Share who you are most proud of seeing your creations on.
Max Tan: “Ingrid, female rapper and Beyoncé’s protégé; Rupaul’s Drag Race winner, Violet Chachki; Eurovision winner, Conchita Wurst. In Singapore, Rozz, Joi Chua and Joanna Dong have all worn my clothes. I would love to dress all these women again!”
On The MAX.TAN Muse
If you can choose, who are the celebrities/stars you would like to see dressed in MAX.TAN?
Max Tan: “My ultimate dream is to be able to dress Tilda Swinton, Lady Gaga, Daphne Guinness and if given a different time and era, I think it would be interesting to see icons such as Katherine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe wear a MAX.TAN!”
On Singapore Fashion Week
Tell us about your feelings of showing in this year’s Singapore Fashion Week. Are you excited to be amongst the first designers to have their collections presented at the National Gallery?
Max Tan: “I can’t say enough how proud I am to be one of the first designers to have my collection presented at the Singapore Fashion Week! Having learnt and grown from the Fashion Futures 2.0 programme, I cant wait to show everyone my Spring/Summer 2017 collection.
“I am also excited to be able to partner with technology giant, Microsoft, who will be presenting my show this year. Rather than a playback soundtrack and a parade of models, I’ve gathered two other artists that I have worked with before – Darren Ng, Sound Artist and Bin, Multimedia Designer – to come together and work on the show. A collaboration between friends, and a collaboration between two brands, making and presenting fashion together.”