When Wisharawish Akarasantisook won the coveted Mango Fashion Award with its EUR300,000 (USD316,700, or MYR1.4 million) prize in 2012, he was hailed as a design genius. The collection, ‘Reincarnation’, was inspired by existentialism, Thailand, and reflections on life, death and nature. It is this sort of thinking pieces that characterises Wisharawish's designs, combined with technical mastery, immaculate craftsmanship and a great attention to detail.
"I work from abstraction and find inspiration from writing, music, images, film or a combination of creative disciplines. I turn rhythm and instances into realities of wearable identities," says Wisharawish.
Dedicated to the art of fashion, he launched his label, Wisharawish, to produce made-to-order couture pieces. Meanwhile, he is kept busy with art projects, producing the ‘Made by Paris?’ collection, which consisted of screen prints while on an artist-in-residence programme in the French capital. He also had a stint as a cultural officer with Thailand's Ministry of Culture’s Office of Contemporary Art and Culture and continues to work with them as an independent consultant.
Malaysian designer Cassey Gan graduated with a chemical engineering degree but after an internship with a fashion magazine, she switched paths to become a fashion designer. It was clearly a good call. Upon graduating from London College of Fashion, where she was a favourite with tutors, Gan was featured in Vogue Italia’s 2012 global edition of 'Discovering fashion's future generation of talents.’
Gan returned to Malaysia to launch her eponymous fashion label and became a darling of the fashion set for her unique design vision. "The brand DNA is all about non-form fitting clothing with an interesting mix of fabrics, textures, prints and layerings. I like the quiet confidence and relaxed look, and I will always channel that across through my work," says Gan.
Her knack is in making comfortable and utterly wearable pieces that often have unexpected twists, whether it is an irregular hemline or vibrant pops of clashing colours. Her signatures are prints and the bib dress.
For design inspiration, they are all around her. After the untimely death of Zaha Hadid, Gan paid homage to the British architect and her work with the collection ‘Suprematism’. For ‘Series 05’, she channelled the samurai spirit in the form of loose silhouettes, layered pieces and the mixing of prints.
Indonesian designer Savira Lavinia's design ambitions started early in life; she learned how to sew when she was just eight and was always putting pencil to paper. "I've always wanted to become a painter but then I decided to do fashion because I want others to wear my art." In 2015, the Jakarta-based designer debuted her label Sav Lavin at Indonesia Fashion Week, sending a collection that combined traditional Indonesian crafted details with futuristic elements such as handmade thermochromic textured rubber fabric.
Working with traditional handicraft methods is an important component of Savira's designs. For her recent ‘Tacenda’ SS17 collection, she was inspired by her trip to Flores where she participated in IKKON, a pilot design collaboration project. Through this project, she collaborated with local craftsmen to produce the intricate details in her clothes. "For me to be able to make a ready-to-wear collection by collaborating and giving direct impact is an achievement," she says.
For her next collection, she is digging deeper into Indonesia's wealth of cultures and traditions to create a collection that mixes anthropology with design.
Street wear designer Renan Pacson packs a punch with his bold and edgy designs. When asked what first sparked his interest in fashion, he answered, poetically: "The street, watching people, observing how they dress up for their daily lives. The grannies in my province layered up in floral mumus and printed leggings and huge rafia hats when they sweep their yards early in the morning. The taho (sweetened silken tofu) vendors and tricycle drivers in their T-shirts over long-sleeved polos and ‘good morning' towels wrapped around their heads."
His approach to design is multifaceted, differing from season to season. "I once started a collection by burning hundreds of incense where my fabrics were hanging because the inspiration was the church and the inquisition or auto-da-fé," says Pacson, who also works with alternative and sustainably sourced materials for his clothes. So far he has experimented with PET (mineral water bottle) fibres as well as piña or pineapple fibres, which are a by-product of the fruit's leaves.
Already making waves back in the Philippines, Pacson is stepping up in the international scene; he launched his SS 2016 collection at the Tokyo Fashion Show. The collection, ‘Seams and Interruptions’, was inspired by photographer David Campany and artist Escher, featuring a dark palette, embroidered and appliquéd with tonal black on black to create depth and illusion.
Wai Yang is transcending borders. Burmese-born, U.K.-educated and now Singapore-based, the young designer just launched her debut collection to enthusiastic response. Recently graduated from London College of Fashion with a degree in Textile Design, her design aesthetic is minimal yet focused on subtle details, with special emphasis on the quality of the textiles used.
The young designer has an artistic bent; her AW 2016 collection was inspired by artist Lucio Fontana's concept of Spazialismo that art should embrace science and technology. The delightful collection is characterised by oversized shapes, asymmetric layers, colourful prints and delicate detailing. Wai Yang has plans to go big with her label but for now, her clothes are only available by pre-ordering from her website.