THE DRAWING BOARD

Entering the IGC studio, one is first greeted by the static image of new samples neatly displayed and awaiting its launch date. Past a second door, another layer is revealed; meandering around the narrow walkways and corners, past the work stations and clothes racks with garments in various states of completion, one encounters the machinery, both human and mechanical, that produces the IGC collections.

What happens at the beginning of a collection?
Kane and I set the direction and decide what we should focus on, how we will move from this collection to the next and what we can bring forward. Sometimes, we discuss an idea one of us has that requires the other party to execute instead because it’s beyond the former’s capability; it’s really a matter of who does it better and faster.

There is a certain sense of duality in your collections—could you tell us more about this?
The duality came about naturally because of how we each approach our craft and it was in retrospect that we realised this. When Kane treats a fabric, it’s always from a soft, fluid sort of hand, whereas for me, it’s about trying to think of it as crisp and streamlined as possible. I’ve never seen a brand accomplish having both elements within a collection; usually when you try to do two directions, you end up neither here nor there. In this case, somehow it’s seamless.

And, there is no competition between us, we don’t look at how many best-sellers we’ve created individually. At the end of the day, when I see the customer picking up my clean-cut shirts with his sensual dresses, I know that there are two different sides to this woman. We can also tell when customers become more open to embracing new styles. It surprises me how we’ve managed to stretch their level of acceptance such that they begin buying into different categories and different parts of the collections.

What is your thought process when designing a garment from scratch?
It differs slightly from style to style but, basically, it’s very much about capturing an intangible spirit or feel. So, it can come from almost anything I see. It’s often inspiring when I observe a customer try on a style in the shop and look at herself in the mirror; it shows me her natural reaction to the garment: how she judges the garment, how she appreciates herself and how she decides if she wants to buy it.

With regards to our customers, quiet would be the word I’d use to summarize them. It’s as if they don’t want the spotlight on them but they still want a little light, and that’s the sort of fine balance we have to consider. It’s about designing something that will suit their lifestyle.

Hanging appeal is very important too. During the design process or when the sample is produced, I judge the garment when it’s on the hanger as that’s where the customer will first encounter it.

Kane, in contrast, has a very strategic and analytical approach to garment construction. It’s ironic because his works are known for their soft fluidity. He has this particular skill to figure out the construction of the style he is working on right at the beginning while most designers figure that out at the end. His approach is a highly efficient way of working as he can get the sample out almost a hundred percent right, which shows how much control he has over his craft.

Please share more about your sampling process.
Finishing is the most important thing for us—it’s what sets us apart. When we make a mistake, it usually happens in the finishing and we have to correct it by trial and error because it depends on the fabric and how each individual style has to be finished in a different way in order for it to look correct. The rest is pretty straightforward, we sew up the samples, fit them, correct them, and if we have to, we’ll do another sample. At the end of the collection, I pick out a handful of styles to miniaturise for Mini Me.

Another increasingly important aspect for us is colour, some of which we develop from scratch. Especially at the ION store, the colour story is the first thing you will pick up on before the individual styles. Although we began with a neutral palette with wardrobe essentials in mind, we’ve grown from it and introduced denim, bright colours, and pastel shades. When I select colour, I base it on Asian skin tones, which is why even very bright or unusual colours that most people wouldn’t think they could pull off are eventually found to be flattering.

What is an average day like in your studio?
It depends on the stage of the collection. Usually, I start by checking on my drafter to see if I’ll need to work with her. We are extremely happy with the group of people that work with us, and it’s still a very small team for how big the collections are and how frequently we churn out styles.

Next, I check in with the manufacturer because I’m in charge of external vendors. We work exclusively with the workshop that produces for us as they are people we can really trust. In fact, in the past three years, we’ve only been there once. Since we’re the ones who perfect the samples, they basically just have to ensure that the stocks are identical to them.

Kane handles the sampling team even though they may be working on my designs because, in terms of technical expertise, he is better than me. This is efficient as everyone knows who to look for and there’s no hard feelings. If there’s a compromise to be taken, then I get involved to correct things or find a better method of doing it. So, that’s how things run in the studio.

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Interview by Caitlin de Laure

Photography by Jovian Lim