Justin Chua has had little time to bask in the glory of clinching the top prize at Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award last November. Shortly after his win, Chua got busy developing his graduation project, POLYMORPHISM, into a full collection and worked towards launching his own label, CONCEPT: 20559—all while juggling the demands of a full‐time job as a fashion design assistant at a local label.
It was the 26‐year‐old’s clear vision, aesthetic sensibility and commitment to craft that ultimately won the competition’s judges over. He impressed with a two‐piece nylon and taffeta ensemble with transformative aspects: A zippered dress that can be converted into a top and a skirt, and a cropped jacket that can be turned into a bag. The LASALLE College of the Arts alum took home a S$10,000 cash prize and a scholarship for a masters degree at Istituto Marangoni.
Here, the budding designer discusses this new way of dressing and his debut collection, priced from $260 to $490, that will be exclusively retailed in Design Orchard from 8 June and on Oneorchard.store from 22 June.
How did your label name, CONCEPT: 20559, come about?
“CONCEPT” refers to the core concept of the label: polymorphism implemented from a functional, inclusive standpoint. My gender‐neutral pieces each performs multiple functions or features modular aspects that allow it to be convertible in design, which caters to different needs and styles. “20559” is of personal significance; it was my student identification number back in university and it marked the point in time I decided to take fashion seriously.
Your polymorphic garments take cues from architecture. Does form or function come first?
I draw inspiration from different architectural styles, where structural forms and utility intersect. My pieces are created with functionality at the forefront, which I then combine with elements from the collection theme and my personal aesthetic. Ultimately, I strive for a balance between form and function.
Tell us about this collection.
The overarching theme for this five‐piece collection is “Concrete Growth.” It signifies the celebration of growth and a constant state of change, in terms of what has been accomplished up till now and what will be accomplished in future. The pieces are inspired by people I’ve met and places I’ve been throughout my fashion journey.
What are some design details and material considerations?
Expect lots of layering, panelling, pleated folds as well as curved and angled seam finishes. Fabrics—mostly cotton and nylon blends—were chosen based on the collection theme, wearability and how they sit on the body.
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What challenges did you face?
The challenges stem from single‐handedly creating a full collection within a specified time frame while working full‐time. I had to take decisive steps when it came to design and material sourcing so I could move on to sample‐making and production in a timely manner. It wasn’t easy to find suitable production partners, as I was working with a lower quantity and on a pre‐order basis. My girlfriend, who has worked in the fashion industry longer than I have, helped me with that and I’m really thankful.
How does it feel to have your first collection sold in Design Orchard and on Oneorchard.store? Who do you envision wearing the clothes?
I’m delighted to be a part of the retail space and platform; this will really help fashion start‐ups like mine to reach both local and global audiences. Given the versatility and modularity of the garments, they can be worn by anyone and styled in various ways for casual or formal occasions.
What are the next steps for your brand?
I’d like to establish the foundations of my label after furthering my studies. There’s still much to learn and I’m excited to grow along with the brand. Hopefully, when it starts to gain traction, I can expand the team and venture overseas.
Photographed by Phyllicia Wang
Styled by Gracia Phang
Model: May Siu/ Basic Models Management
Makeup and hair: Grego using Estēe Lauder and Keune
Stylist’s assistant: Brandon Chia