When I was a kid, fashion to me was wearing my favourite Spice Girl T-Shirt and spandex shorts, a sartorial crime that my mother humoured. Paired with my stereotypical Asian bowl haircut (thanks again for that, MOM), the result was quite hideous and displeasing to the eye, even the untrained one.
Luckily, I burned all photographic evidence and my sense of style began to improve after I started studying design in university. The more I learned about myself and how to “see”, the more refined my eye and tastes became. Without even thinking about it, I apply my design sensibilities to everything from how I decorate my room to how I dress myself, not just in terms of aesthetics but functionally as well.
This train of thought began while reflecting on my fashion philosophies in preparation for the Workplace Style feature that Boost Agents did on me (you can read the full article here). It was all very exciting and flattering! They sent photographer, Adam Harrison, to shoot and interview me, first at the Cosmic studio where my co-workers kept teasing me about being “famous” then at nearby locations that I could bear to walk to in my stiletto heels*. (Above: How I felt about being featured)
I don’t think I realized just how much my sartorial choices were influenced by the designer in me until this interview. I approach fashion the same way I approach a design problem in the sense that the problem often dictates the solution. In a creative project, the limitations as well as the answer can often be found in the brief set by the client. When you dress yourself, you can find your style by referring to factors like body type, context, etc…
Here are 7 Fashion Hacks from a Designer's Perspective:
1/ MATCH THAT
When I was in grade 1, my favourite "holiday" was Valentine’s Day. I was innocent and thought it was about getting pretty cards and NOT about consumerism. Then a mean girl with lollipop-like proportions shattered my pink and red world, snootily informing me that those colours were tacky together. That was were my anxiety over colour was born. Plus my keen designer’s eye can spot the slight differences between in shades of colour and that really irritates the OCD in me. Dressing with a limited colour palette has it’s perks though especially for people who love sleeping in as long as humanly possible. When everything matches, it makes getting dressed so much easier.
2/ OPPOSITES ATTRACT
People think that wearing all one colour is very boring but just like a design brief, you need to work within the set limitations. Sometimes it forces you to get more creative and the result can be much more interesting. I like wearing leather but too much can get very dominatrix-esque which is not the look I generally try to pull off at work. Instead I try to play with contrast, pairing a leather pants with a chunky knit sweater, or a silky blouse with a fur vest and distressed jeans. The effect of a monochrome outfit with juxtaposing textures can end up looking very rich and sleek with the added dimension.
3/ THE BODY IS THE BRIEF
While I would love to wear boyfriend jeans, a slouchy sweater, and comfy running shoes, I would look like a dumpy hobbit. Some people who are blessed with gazelle-like limbs can wear anything and still look elegant but I have no such genetic luck. Body type really dictates what and how you wear clothes. For example, I have more curves than a Nissan ad and am vertically challenged so I lean more towards fitted pieces and tucking my shirts in or wearing belts to emphasize my waist. But if I want to wear something trendy like dress trousers, I have to wear heels and a form-fitting top so I’m not drowning in fabric. You have to understand what types of clothes flatter your body type.
4/ BALANCING ACT
Every time I go out on a Saturday night, without fail I see some poor drunk girl wearing sky-high heels, piles of jewellery, hair that’s been curled within an inch of it’s life, a low cut top in a sheer material, and a skirt so short that I can practically see her unborn children. TOO. MUCH. As in design, if everything pops then nothing does or in this case, it all “pops” out. If I wear a short skirt, I try to balance it with loose fitting top. If I wear an elaborate statement necklace, I’ll keep the rest of the outfit simple. This way, you’re more selective and focused with what you highlight.
5/ LET ME COUNT THE WAYS
I hate the waste of buying statement pieces too memorable to wear more than once a month but also get bored of wearing the same outfit very often. Someone in the creative industry has to keep an open mind and constantly be looking for possibilities and alternate paths to solving a problem. My thought process when deciding whether or not to buy any item of clothing is “How many ways can I wear this?” If I can think of more than 3 outfits that I can create with that piece, I’ll consider buying it. I also like that styling can completely transform the look of a piece which keeps your closet from feeling stale.
6/ YOU DO YOU
Falling prey to each season’s trends can be very tempting but I always find people who dress head-to-toe trendy look like they’re trying too hard; like they care more about being perceived as fashionable versus actually developing a unique style. If a designer solved every problem with the trend of the moment (triangles are SO last year), they’d end up with a very homogenous portfolio that becomes dated very quickly and doesn’t reflect their actual design sensibilities. Embrace fashion trends because you actually like it and not just because other people decided it was in style.
7/ DRESS FOR THE OCCASION
Is it summer or winter? Will it rain later? Will I be walking around a lot? Salad or pasta for lunch? Am I going to a meeting during the day? Is there a party after work? Will I be getting sweaty at the gym before going on a date? All of these specific situations factor into how I decide to dress myself for the day. For example, if I’m going to dinner, I’ll avoid the “classy” (but necessary) unbuttoning of the jeans after a large meal by wearing something more loose because #priorities. This factor is very situational and requires some forethought just like developing creative for a campaign that will have to be resized for various collateral.
For the full article and the rest of the photos from the shoot click here.
*Listen, I HAD to wear heels. I have very short legs!
(Photos: Adam Harrison)