My house was perpetually filled with people who celebrated me. They observed my every move and creation with bated breath, applauding me along the way. Chatters and laughter were plentiful in reaction to my quips, and everyone was filled with hope for my future. They believed I might be the next big thing. My parents were fashion prodigies and media darlings; as their creation, I was guaranteed to demonstrate design talent. The world was indeed my oyster; people flocked from all over the world to see me, and I was blissfully happy.
However, people’s perception of you changes as you grow. As a child, your future still shines brightly; anything is possible. Then, as you learn to walk and talk, you embark along your path to young adulthood with a conviction that the world will fall at your feet, because no one is as special as you. Gradually, as you age, people begin to forget about you, and you start to understand that you may not be that special after all, especially when your immediate surroundings are different from what you once imagined when you were younger.
There was a point in my life where I became lost. Everything was not okay. My studio was scattered with rolls of old patterned fabrics and worn machines. It reeked of that young, bright, and hopeful girl I once was, but I felt as though I was falling away from that path I had once followed. It lasted for a while before I managed to find the voice inside again. I have always been very passionate in fashion as I found solace in fashion for it is the most effective medium for me to express myself. It is a way to translate and interpret the world around me, and create something that can be seen, worn and understood by different people. My parents told me once that in order to be great, I must never get stale as a designer. I always need to push the boundaries, to reinvent myself continuously, to be free. I need to be like the sailor always looking beyond the horizon. Like a chef with a huge cooking pot, thinking of what to whip up with the best ingredients and technique. I was overwhelmed then but now I am ready to dream again for myself and also for others.
I look at the world of fashion now and it is changing. Fashion used to be magical, conjuring thoughts of impeccable craftsmanship, visionary design, and legendary icons. But with the pervasiveness of technology, the world of fashion has changed. Trends are moving faster than ever, and those that were once only available to a select few in the past are now made available to the public online. I recalled the scene of people watching my shows through their phones, rather than seeing it firsthand. As fashion photos are chronicled and posted, any style can be copied within seconds.
While I recognize the benefit of sharing runway pictures on the web instantly, it also makes me sad. The work of renowned architects and painters, buildings and bridges can stand the test of time. Priceless paintings can be housed and protected in museums. Fashion, on the other hand, while it takes the same pain and sweat to create, can be gone and forgotten in a matter of minutes. At the end of a runway show, for a brief moment I bask in the glory of applause; it lifts my soul and serves as a testament to the value of my effort. Online, however, viewers can dismiss a page of photos with one click, and a designer’s work is forgotten in a flash. Runway fashion has been transformed into an arena in which designers are pitted against one another continuously, and with greater exposure to fashion among viewers, tastes change at a rapid pace.
The very existence of this technology through which success in fashion no longer depends on creativity but on how quickly new designs can be released clashed with my philosophy as a designer. I used to feel defeated; for me, a dress is a vision, a style, and the work of an artisan. The vision transcends fashion and defies convention. The artisan’s hand sculpts the dress, the liners, and the threads and applies the buttons, zippers, trimmings, and collars. The style goes with the wearer, befits her physique, and enhances her presence. Every article of clothing created carries a story, and the process of creation is long. An artist cannot compromise aesthetics with speed and workmanship. But this is the current state of fashion and I have come to embrace it.
Of course, breaking a person down can be a long, tedious process, but a big, sudden blow can serve as a wake-up call to anyone; the technological disruption in the world of fashion was not only for me to deal but for millions of other designers. However, I cannot waste time wallowing in self-pity. I must continue to listen to my own voice and never stop honing my art as I grow as a designer. My pieces still haven’t lost their edge and sophistication. I can still design something unique with flair that exhibits my love for nature’s flow and movement. People still think about timelessness, universality, and versatility when wearing my dresses – they still are relevant, comfortable, and, most importantly, liberating.
Nostalgia involves a wistful yearning for the past, an almost childish desire to keep the world unchanged, but change is the only constant in life. I confess that I often reminisce about the past – oh, how I missed the simple past. But I see a wave of change coming, and it is coming fast. Technology will keep on advancing, waiting for no one, and I know that I need to change or I will just wither and disappear. Today, I just want to sketch and reconnect with my inner self. With each stroke of the brush or pencil, each muse, and each collection, I want to find the soul of that young girl again.