Designer Talk: Max Tan On His Daring Spring/Summer 2017 Collection

Exploring and challenging the boundaries of gender, designer Max Tan’s favourite tool has always been about deconstruction. Provocative and directional, his statement-making minimalist clothes are stocked across four continents.

Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore: Tell us more about the collection we’re going to see at this year’s Singapore Fashion Week. What inspired the collection?

Max Tan: The Spring/Summer 17 collection that I am showing at Singapore Fashion Week Access stays true to the Max Tan DNA, which is about masculinity versus femininity, and drapery and deconstruction. For example: corsetry laces are used to shape the torso in a masculine manner, and tailored pants are slashed to allow it to fall in a feminine manner.

HBS: What’s the toughest thing about designing? How do you overcome it?

MT: I think the toughest part about designing for my team and I is the development and creative process. A lot of designers practice sketching, and that’s about it. While this long practice is familiar to most designers, I fear falling trap to designing from memory; things that I’ve seen before or like and merely replicating it onto my sketches.

Design integrity is important to us. The creative processes that we develop in the studio must inform every design decision and supported. For example, we develop a lot of creative collages and refrain from using fashion pictures in creating these collages. We then analyze and inspect the components and see how we can translate them into silhouettes, details or even cutting techniques.

max tan

HBS: You are distributed in many different countries, and sell more product overseas than you do locally. Is this purely a matter or scale or do you think there a reason why Singaporeans don’t buy local or don’t buy into fashion in general as much?

MT: There’s a stigma among most Singaporean consumers thinking that anything designed and made in Singapore must be cheap. While I think the price conscious behavior is not just applicable to Singapore’s market, I don’t understand the acceptance of high price points for food and lifestyle, while thinking that designed and Made-in-Singapore products should come at a lowered price point.
That said, there is a growing pool of women who appreciate and support Singapore products. I’m very thankful that they’ve been supportive of the label over the years.

Though based in Singapore, we understand the need to grow outside of Singapore. The label has always been about challenging and pushing boundaries and we’re really lucky to have buyers and customers from everywhere.

HBS: What is the biggest challenge facing brands operating outside of the major fashion capitals?

MT: I think we all live in a very globalised world now. While operating in a major fashion capital is a dream for most designers including myself, I do not think it is necessary to be based in one.

I’m based in Singapore, but my PR is based in Milan and we communicate almost daily on loan requests and the samples travel a lot! I think the ease of communication and technology has helped a lot of emerging designers like myself reach a wider audience. Our sales reps belong to a Paris based showroom and we show our collections at the showroom bi-annually.

HBS: Reports have suggested that the Southeast Asian fashion community is generally not organized enough and often misses opportunities to cross-pollinate/cooperate to gain more international exposure. Do you feel that this is an accurate perception? Does it matter to you at all in the grand scheme of your work?

MT: I think it is an accurate perception. The fashion weeks in Asia are normally quite far apart with each country doing their own fashion weeks. This does nothing to entice buyers to travel and to retain them. However, again with technology and the ease of communication, more and more amazing Asian talents are being discovered. Singapore Fashion Week’s all Asian talent angle is a great initiative by gathering Asian talents together while supporting Singapore designers and labels!

By Ryan Sng

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