For the final installation of our Fashioning the Future series, we look to Felicia Yap for a graphic designer’s perspective on the future of Singapore’s fashion industry. She’s a junior art director at Singapore-based social media agency GOODSTUPH, where she works with brands to create content that span social media campaigns to fashion illustrations. She’s also a photographer and stylist to boot. Here, she speaks with BAZAAR about the relationship between fashion and graphic design, and the importance of image-making in this digital age.
Why does fashion matter?
It’s a medium that enables us to express who we are and who we aspire to be; but of course it holds varying levels of importance to people, depending how they view fashion. In actuality, fashion has a huge social and economic impact. It’s one of the largest industries in the world, and in times like the current global health crisis, it does its part to help. LVMH is using their resources to create alcohol-based hand sanitisers for the healthcare industry. Likewise, Inditex, owner of Zara and Massimo Dutti, are doing their part in manufacturing more personal protective equipment such as hospital gowns and masks for healthcare workers.
Why does image-making for fashion brands appeal to you?
It was the visual language of fashion that initially drew my attention. I grew up in the rural outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, where the only manner in which I could explore the world was through books and magazines. And while I attribute those years spent gleaning through countless glossies to my ability to identify what is considered aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t negate the fact that being able to spot a pretty image is completely different from being able to create it—the skill sets to which I only picked up in college. I enjoyed the creative process of figuring out lighting and composition to create an image and over the course of my studies I got good at it. So when I finally graduated and started working full-time, it was important to me that whatever I did overlapped with fashion, because I didn’t think I would have enjoyed my work otherwise. Over the years, my work has caught people’s attention and they would contact me for fashion and/or graphic design-related projects—that’s how I got my start. Local skincare label SigiSkin actually found and contacted me through Instagram and engaged me to design the packaging for their products. Another example was when SmittenPR approached me to design their logo and other branding collaterals such as name cards. Most of the brands I’ve been approached by were drawn to my use of colours in graphic design, as well as the fact that I am able to produce images with high-production value.
How do you see the relationship between fashion and graphic design?
Between fashion and graphic design is a space that allows for the creation of something beyond just beautiful images. Different graphic elements such as illustration, choice of fonts and layout helps convey a brand’s message to its audience. Graphic design also plays a huge role in bringing the fashion image and narrative to life in the case of fashion publications and fashion brand collaterals. In other words, graphic design extends fashion from garments to other digital and print forms.
Hermès has done a very good job of doing this and it’s always exciting to come across their graphic and printed materials because they are never the same and are often delightful, like their visual merchandising and window displays. Gucci too has done a fantastic job. My favorite is a book that they created in collaboration with Thai illustrator Phannapast Taychamaythakool for their Le Marché Des Merveilles jewellery collection. It looks like a storybook, but it’s actually a fantastical re-imagination of the process behind creating the collection.
What is your creative process like?
I get most of my ideas at night before I go to bed or in the morning after I wake up because I usually scroll through Instagram or read a book during these times. And I just subconsciously take inspiration from them and come up with ideas. I also get inspired by what’s happening in the world—or anything really, as cliche as it sounds.
I generally start by gathering visual references from online sources when I’m planning for product shoots. Next, I’ll look at what the products are, and understand what narrative the final image is supposed to convey. Then I will decide on a certain direction based on my references and select the most suitable set design for the brand or products prior to preparing the set and props. Since I have a graphic design background, I will always try to further enhance the images in post-production. My process is a little different for fashion illustrations. I will find the object or photograph that I want to illustrate and then trace the main element I want—the face, for example. Then I will manipulate it with other illustrated elements such as accessories or clothes and even the background.
My images are colourful and feature elaborate set designs, and my illustration style has more raw edges than clean lines. Ultimately, I am a commercial graphic designer and whatever I create is still influenced by what the client wants, so there’s that as well.
What are your hopes for fashion in Singapore?
In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, I think that the local fashion industry is definitely rethinking how it operates. Fashion practitioners will be more mindful of what and how we create and look at how we can make more of a difference in the world.
Related article: Fashioning The Future: Natsuko Teruya On The Art Of Image-making
Location: LASALLE College of the Arts
Hair & Makeup: Greg’O
Fashioning the Future is a four-part series where we speak to four women in the fields of education, design and photography to find out how in their respective disciplines, they are contributing to shaping the fashion landscape in Singapore.