Featured Artist Interview: Cassey Gan
Like many other pattern obsessed like myself, I spent an evening gazing at the gregarious amount of fashion and print on the internet. I came upon Cassey Gan, and knew I had to interview her for the the PatternBase. I fell in love with her 2012 Press Show for her graduation. The bold, clashing, childlike colors are used in exactly the way I appreciate. Cassey also has an experimental streak. While I focused heavily on color and pattern for this interview, her designs also breathe cultural inspiration. She holds a BA(Hons) in Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear from the London College of Fashion. Her graduate collection, featured in this interview, was 1 of 25 selected for the LCF for its external press show. She has also been featured in Vogue Italia’s global edition of “Discovering fashion’s future generation of talents.” She has now launched her own label, and resides in Malaysia.
PB: I read that you first received a degree in Engineering. What inspired your change in path to become a fashion designer?
CG: After I finished my Engineering degree, I knew that I could never be a great engineer as my heart has always been with the arts. I started to intern for a local fashion magazine company and fell in love with the fashion industry. I was constantly surrounded by beautiful clothes and that inspired me to want to create. It’s the best decision I’ve made and I’ve never looked back since!
PB: Talk about the medium and materials you work with. What is your favorite material to work with?
CG: I don’t have one particular favorite material because I love experimenting with different materials. I am intrigued by the idea of mixing hard and soft elements together. It’s a personal aim to always experiment with introducing unconventional types of material into my designs. For instance, I used bamboo in various forms and sizes in my graduation collection. Having said that, cotton seems to remain a staple fabric for me in my collections thus far.
PB: How does textile design fit into your practice?
CG: It has become increasingly important because I love creating my own textile, be it designing a new print or creating a new texture. Designing print to me is like realising my imaginations and dreams onto a piece of blank canvas.
PB: Describe your experience as a student at the London College of Fashion. How did it shape your designs and your career?
CG: Being in London College of Fashion has been one of the best experiences in my life. I love the vibe of the college. The tutors have been extremely helpful along the way and they were the ones who made me the designer I am today. I was constantly being pushed, inspired and even encouraged time and time again never to be afraid to experiment. In LCF, I learnt to balance design and practicality and to me, that balance is crucial as a ready-to-wear designer.
PB: Where are you located now, and how does it shape your work?
CG: I’m back home in Kuala Lumpur now. Having spent a few years in the UK soaking in the vibrant culture and coming back to Asia with fresh eyes, the vision of my work is influenced by my life experience in different cities.
PB: There are usually a variety of things that inspire artists and designers, but are there any that stand out to you as a constant source of inspiration?
CG: I find myself constantly drawn towards anything that has interesting shapes and colours. I also enjoy meeting people and listening to their stories as they usually inspire me a lot.
PB: Who are some artists and designers who you look to today? Are there any who draw your attention regularly?
PB: What colors, textures and patterns are you currently fixated on? Why?
CG: Home is where my heart is and I’m happy to be with my family again. Hence I seem to be fixated on very ‘happy’ and bright colours at the moment –salmon pink, turqouise, teal, lemon and mint. I also have been very attracted to very orderly and structured patterns with a mix of geometric shapes as seen in many old walkways in the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
PB: What does your studio space look like? What is your process?
CG: It’s a small square room with a big drafting table and a couple of sewing machines! I go to my studio every morning at about 8.30am and start experimenting with mainly pattern cutting as cutting is very important to the creation of my garments. I find myself constantly making toiles/samples because a lot of my designs evolve from making mistakes and then redesigning by drawing directly on toiles. My studio is where all the experiments happen and steps are taken to make my dreams come alive.
PB: How do you sustain your practice as a designer?
CG: I’m interested in making ready-to-wear collections commercially available at affordable prices to a niche market. Currently, I am stocked at a few shops and I am looking to be stocked in more places later this year.
PB: I am in love with your prints, and your chosen colors in both your SS’13 Series 1 and 2012 Press Show. Explain the process when you developed these prints.
CG: First of all, 2012 Press Show is my graduation collection and I wanted it to be a celebration of my time in London. As the collection is also about celebrating a child-like spirit, I knew that the colours had to be clashing, playful and happy! My collection carried the underlying message of the truth about child labour and how most stories have been hidden away from the public. Therefore, I was instantly inspired by the idea of camouflage which then became the main inspiration for the print.
As for SS13 Series 1, I was inspired by the notion of trees as bearers of secrets. I wanted to create a more whimsical quality to the collection by using a dreamy tree print.
PB: What inspired the color choices in the 2012 Press Show? What materials did you use?
CG: In my 2012 Press Show, I have used various weights of cotton fabric. Some of them were dyed to a specific colour. I have also introduced bamboo in different forms and sizes into the collection to add depth and texture.
PB: What inspired your SS’13 collection?
CG: In the old days, if someone had a secret they didn’t want to share, they would find a tree, carve a hole in it and whisper the secret into the hole. They would then leave the secret there forever. This collection is inspired by the notion of trees as bearers of secrets. Very often in life, we overlook our “everyday pillars” and easily take them for granted. It is actually in these people and objects that life is built upon – stories are revealed and secrets are concealed. Therefore it is good to treasure the understated yet worthy aspects of life.
PB: What is your advice to aspiring artists and designers?
CG: Do what you love doing and never give up. Inspiration is everywhere.
Right now, Cassey is expanding the SS13 collection, and will introduce it in a trade show in May. She’s also working on a couple of other design projects with some local companies and collaborating with an overseas photographer on another secret project.
Visit Cassey’s website, or view her shop at Glasshouse Yard, where you will find her latest SS’13 designs.