Design+

Why Not? Works: Miyuki Tsuji’s Sketchbook and Her Favourite Flowers

Dress to express, not conform

Words by
Dawn
Location
Singapore

Miyuki Tsuji‘s fashion icons include Nana Komatsu, Lady Gaga and Suki Waterhouse. “I like people who have very eccentric characters and who can be very fluid and effervescent in their style and the way they carry themselves,” she shares. Monki is her favourite fashion brand, so it is no surprise when she cites anything bright and heavily printed as her go-to outfit. But she admits that she enjoys switching things up.

Showcasing her collection dERAI\- tomorrow together with other graduate designers at The Substation, she presents ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ without the solemnity. The collection leans towards eclectic, optimistic and lighthearted — a reimagination of the detective classic and the 1930s through a Tim Burton light.

With her creativity showcased through fashion and floristry, how do they come together in her design-making process or how she chooses to express herself? Let’s find out.

It is interesting that you are involved with floristry. Tell us how you got involved.

I was looking for a job after my ‘A’ levels, and I’ve always had a fascination with flowers. I probably got it from my mum and grandma; they have a keen interest in plants and flower arrangements.

People generally presume floristry is an easy and a laid-back job, or even a retirement plan maybe — which is not entirely wrong. Working in floristry comprises long hours and many chores. Your body may ache, but working while being surrounded with flowers is one of the loveliest working environments and it definitely lifts your mood. You’ll also meet the nicest customers! Sometimes, customers return to thank us after they’ve delivered their flowers to their loved ones, and these are the moments that fill me with a sense of fulfilment.

If anyone is looking for a part-time job, floristry is something I strongly recommend! Sure, the pay is not as rewarding as many other jobs, but if you put your heart into it, what you will reap is bountiful.

Favourite flower:

I say, a Protea. I like flowers that look wild and exotic!

Gardens to visit in this lifetime:

I think the garden and landscaping at Changi Airport’s Jewel (like the Shiseido Forest Valley there) is amazing! Amanohashidate (天橋立), (which is a bay and forest trial) in Kyoto, Japan, is also one of my favourite and most unforgettable nature places to visit.

I honestly haven’t been to many gardens, but I don’t think you have to go to a specific garden to appreciate flowers or get a very scenic photo. Whenever I travel, I guarantee at least 60% of my photos are of flowers. I think nature and flowers are best appreciated in their natural environments, and as long as you are observant enough, that can be anywhere.

Does your floristry influence or inspire your fashion designs? How so?

Yes, yes, yes!

One big thing that floristry has taught me is patience, appreciation and learning to be observant. In fashion, you would have to do up several toiles or adjustments to get the right fit, and attention to detail is vital.

When working on a floral arrangement, you picture the flowers in the final space they are going to end up in and it’s sort of cool that this is how as a florist, you get to be a part of the everyday of others. Similarly, when designing a garment, you also want to picture it on a model and be able to imagine it in a show or a certain environment after.

Vice versa, fashion also inspires my floristry work! Fashion studies how a piece of fabric can be draped beautifully and creatively over a human body. In floristry, we have to know how to package and wrap flowers in a presentable manner. The skills are similar and really applicable in both fields. In fact, what I have learnt in fashion pushes me to come up with more creative ideas to present flowers. Ultimately, my biggest takeaway is that it’s really about taking pride in what you do and ensuring that you do it to your utmost.

On a regular basis, I go back-and-forth between floristry and fashion design, and personally, I find this to be a very healthy practice. Creating and allowing for gaps in one discipline or a project is crucial. I give myself ample time to reflect and make room for further exploration and possibilities.

The colours and prints stand out in this collection of yours. Share with us your sketching process and how you eventually settled on this palette.

Taking reference from the silhouette and details of the 1930s, with inspiration from the lines of train tracks and train-related motifs, I worked around a rather straight silhouette and then incorporated details resembling the line works.

The original palette for the collection was more dull. I initially made comparisons between forecast palettes and a typical colour palette from the 1930s, and what stood out was warmer tones against a more neutral singular tone. Furthermore, I also knew that I wanted the collection to be very optimistic and quirky, hence I went with a daring mix of pastels and darker shades.

Why ‘Murder on the Orient Express’?

My family doesn’t have a car, so I spend most of my time travelling by train. Even when I go overseas, I travel almost 80% by train. My recent trip to Japan reminded me of how much I love trains, train stations and the slow experience of rail travel. Moreover, Murder on the Orient Express was a movie, set on a train, and it left an impression on me. Its plot ‘derails’ into a murder, with an even more surprising twist at the end, which is the most unexpected, yet the most logical. Therefore, more so than the characters or the peculiar 1930s style of dressing in the movie, the essence of the story, mood and landscapes were, really, the main inspiration for my collection. For sure, the designs or colour for my collection would not explicitly remind people of the movie, but that was not the aim anyway.

A common theme that I found between the 1930s (the backdrop of Agatha’s Christie Murder on the Orient Express) and the present day was also the idea of ambiguity.

This was also evident from the movie’s unnerving balance between suspense and lightheartedness. The 1930s followed the opulent Art Deco period of the 1920s, while foreseeing the solemnity of World War II, and was set during the Great Depression — an era of great uncertainty.

Practicality of dressing contrasted with more feminine silhouettes of the time; vibrant prints juxtaposed the grim outlook. But people still dressed meticulously and lavishly, partly due to the mass production of fashionable clothes.

In our new era, we are also faced with a new set of uncertainties, a set of feelings unique to our time. Sometimes, we embrace this ambiguity, dressing how we feel and sharing to the world our various ups and downs, so much so that at times, it feels unreal.

In this peculiar air of ambiguity and uncertainty, the collection is designed to introduce a new and more vibrant outlook to the solemn and heavy tendencies in Agatha Christie’s interpretation. It provides an optimistic reassurance that no matter how far we ‘derail’ and stray from the path, everything will eventually find its place with time.

Bright or pastel colours contrast with and compliment darker tonalities, while feminine silhouettes inspired from the 1930s are presented in a new take, through layers and styling that comprises jumpsuits, pants and outerwear made for the everyday of the energetic 21st century women.

Through Why Not?, I do hope people can get a glimpse of the scenario and mood I am trying to achieve. It is my own individualistic take and play on luxury travel.

What keeps you inspired and constantly creating?

Appreciation and curiosity for nature and the quaint and peculiar things is a big part of what keeps me inspired. More often than not, a simple idea or an overused idea gets me curious and motivated. I’d ask myself:

How can I inject my personality and thoughts into this? How do I stray away from looking at it from a conventional angle?

Watching interviews of artists and looking out for artworks that resonate with me are also big driving forces. Flipping through magazines is both a habit and hobby that inspires me. It’s such a cliché, but the knack and revelation you get out of looking at and sourcing off a tactile piece of material, rather than something from online, is so emotional still.

I also like to have a notebook with me because I have to jot something down as soon as it pops up, else I might lose the idea forever. Finally, when creating, the final product is seldom what I’m looking forward to because the process and stages are always the most exciting parts!

What would inject more excitement in the typical Singaporean fashion sense?

Learning how to have fun and play around with dressing is important, and it was something that I grew up with.

Singaporeans have to dress to express, rather than to conform.

Obviously, this is not to say that one has to go full glam on a daily basis, but trying something new everyday or adding a statement piece to spice up one’s daily wardrobe is an effort that will go a long way — I’ve tried.

People have to embrace and support new brands and fresh faces that come into the market. Likewise, there should also be continuous support for more independent fashion exhibitions and unique fashion showcases to debut in Singapore. Speaking of which, Why Not? might also be a great chance and platform to inject this excitement. The collaborative effort among the team to deliver the designers’ different styles and moods is truly a rare sight, and I hope this would inspire Singaporeans to be more eager and welcoming of a different possibility and unique fashion future in Singapore — one that feeds off collaboration, inclusiveness, optimism and boundless possibilities.

Fast fashion: yay or nay

Yay-Nay! Or rather, Nay-Yay!

As much as companies are trying their best to achieve more sustainable methods, it is unfortunate that fast fashion is inevitable, just like Thanos is.

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