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Living the American dream

Malaysian fashion designer Jasmine Chong competes in the fashionable US reality Amazon Prime Video series, Making the Cut

31 Mar 2020 / 23:11 H.

NEWS broke that Malaysian fashion designer Jasmine Chong was set to compete in the Amazon Prime Video reality series, Making the Cut, hosted by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn.

Chong and 11 other fashion designers will be judged before a panel of industry experts including Naomi Campbell, Carine Roitfeld, Joseph Altuzzara, Chiara Ferragni and Nicole Richie.

Just this February, Chong presented her most recent Autumn/Winter 2020 collection Celestia during New York Fashion Week (NYFW). In the collection, she found a sense of ethereal beauty in the gilded halls of the Palace of Versailles in France. And in that beauty, there were flaws in humanity; where she felt insignificant and ordinary among the grandeur of dramatic Baroque decor and lavish Rococo frescoes.

The collection mirrors the movements between a lofty world that’s not of her own, and embraces beauty in imperfection with sheer chiffon and silk organza weighed down by flocked velvet and heavy jacquards, and menswear silk shirting and wisps of French lace.

Chong shares: “The pace of fashion moves so swiftly, with so much output into the world. My approach to design and fashion has always been a slower, more artful approach. Ideas and silhouettes need to marinate before you commit to them, and like most things, good things take time.”

In February, Jasmine Chong presented her Autumn/Winter 2020 collection at New York Fashion Week. – Courtesy of Jasmine Chong
In February, Jasmine Chong presented her Autumn/Winter 2020 collection at New York Fashion Week. – Courtesy of Jasmine Chong

What fuels you as a fashion designer?

“I draw so much from personal experiences and emotions, and designing is one of the few ways I can find catharsis. Designing pieces that are meaningful to me and then having my customers draw meaning and find beauty in the pieces – that’s one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a designer.”

What are the hallmarks of your namesake label Jasmine Chong?

“Growing up in Kuala Lumpur and spending a lot of time in Jakarta, my mother and I would go shopping, we’d walk up to a rack and feel like we couldn’t try anything on as we both wear between a US size 8 to 14.

“I never sought out to create an ‘inclusive’ line, but I think that my personal experiences have inevitably influenced my designs. I want to have women of a range of sizes feel like they have access to aspirational and luxurious womenswear.

“There’s this archaic idea – that an aspirational aesthetic has to be a certain size, a certain height, a certain look. I hope to widen the perception of what aspirational is, because the truth is, there isn’t just one single beauty ideal.

“There’s beauty everywhere, in so many ways.”

Can you describe the emotion of creating garments?

“It always stems from a strong feeling and emotion. Fashion has become a journal to me, so I’ll create a mood board by writing, sketching and taking film photographs. Film, because there’s a moodiness that can’t be replicated in digital form.

“After that, I spend hours draping; literally hours and days. Draping feels the most natural to me, so I work that way to come up with new silhouettes. I love nothing more than being in my atelier in the Garment District, draping and pinning away.”

Jasmine Chong Autumn/Winter 2020 collection. – Courtesy of Sofia Colvin
Jasmine Chong Autumn/Winter 2020 collection. – Courtesy of Sofia Colvin

How do you lay the groundwork for each collection?

“The design process takes time, from initial inspiration, draping, to the final show sample. A lot of people think the glamour of the shows is the best part of being a designer, but for me, I love the quiet and the uncertainty and experimentation that comes with the design process.”

Having showcased in NYFW for the fourth season, what goes into the genesis of a fashion show?

“A good team is everything, and it has taken me four shows to finally feel like I’ve found it.

“Emily Rudman is my key makeup artist and she helps me dream up the makeup look for the models. Davide Marinelli is my hairstylist from years ago when I was just a student, so when I finally launched a label, he was the perfect person to lead the hair team. It all comes together so beautifully when you have the right team, because they get you on such an intuitive and creative level that you can trust them with your vision. It’s so special.”

How did you come to compete in Amazon Prime Video’s fashion competition, Making The Cut?

“I was in Los Angeles for a trunk show and the casting director e-mailed me. I actually thought it was spam at first! Within days, I was at Amazon for meetings.

“The entire experience and being on a show with such a powerhouse panel of judges was so surreal – it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It really taught me that sometimes, taking a risk and leaping into the unknown can be really rewarding. I loved being a part of such a diverse group of designers as well. I can’t wait for everyone to see the show!”

Jasmine Chong Autumn/Winter 2020 collection. – Courtesy of Sofia Colvin
Jasmine Chong Autumn/Winter 2020 collection. – Courtesy of Sofia Colvin

I’ve heard that Midtown, Manhattan is slowly dying, due to designers outsourcing overseas for cheaper fabrics and workmanship. What does it mean to be a true fashion label that is designed and made in New York’s Garment District?

“You’re not wrong. The Garment District has been shrinking, and given the current pandemic situation, it’s something that’s frequently on my mind. However, I believe that the Garment District family is incredibly resilient, and will weather through this in some way. There is still a roster of designers who strongly identify with being a part of the Garment District.”

In a previous interview, you’ve mentioned: “The most beautiful things in life are the ones that don’t last.” How does that inform the issue of sustainability in fashion?

“For my debut Autumn/Winter 2016 collection Botanica Ephemera, the inspiration was botanical illustrations; documenting and holding onto something ephemeral, like a plant. There’s something beautiful about the ephemeral nature of plants. You have to appreciate a plant’s beauty because it doesn’t last.

“In terms of clothing and sustainability, I believe that thoughtfully designed, well-crafted clothing that is treasured, loved and worn is better for the environment. A few of our signature pieces are also size-agnostic, with fluid, drapey silhouettes, so they are still wearable even as our bodies change. It makes the pieces less disposable and less likely to end up in a landfill.”

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