Never-ending bloom: An interview with Celine Kwan

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Central Saint Martins class of 2021 presents to you talent Celine Kwan, providing colorful utopia’s to the world of art and fashion.

Aged 24, the young designer graduated from CSM last year, specializing in Fashion Design with Print. The focus of her creations merge past and future aesthetics into a never-ending bloom of creativity.

Last week you debuted in Paris Fashion Week with your first AW22 collection-Congratulations! How does it feel to see your work showcased in
such an iconic setting?
Thank you so much, it feels absolutely incredible, and for someone like me that has just graduated and started a brand, I feel incredibly grateful for this opportunity. It feels surreal to showcase in that setting; we were all stuck at home for the past two years, and I spent my final year at Central Saint Martins at home, making my graduate collection, so I am very grateful. I am actually more motivated than ever; I have so many exciting collections and ideas I want to showcase, I am excited about the future!

In 2021 you graduated from Central Saint Martins. How important do you think it is to have a fashion education before setting up your own brand?
Good question, I think it is important, and I have benefitted from it personally as it laid a good foundation of knowledge and skills. CSM pushed me creatively, and I also met some amazing people along the way. However, I do not believe it is essential since I actually learned a lot of my understanding and know-hows from working in the industry, so much so I actually took two years out of my course to work in the industry, I love it so much. The knowledge from the industry is actually more helpful in settingup my own brand, and I think a fashion education might not be accessible for some people, so just getting in the industry and learning there could be a good option if you plan to get into fashion. But either way, there is no right or wrong; you will learn a lot either way.

Your collections have the ability to merge vintage aesthetics with futuristic compositions, creating a dialogue between past and present. Are you willing to incorporate these elements as a recurring theme in your future projects?
Yes, a lot of my research comes from vintage films and product designers from the 60s and 70s. I think the dialogue between the past and present and the future is so important, and it gives us context and understanding of how things are. As a designer, I always want to innovate with silhouettes, materials and technology. However, with innovation, I believe you have to have a strong understanding and appreciation of tradition and history. Taking things that are familiar to us and giving them an innovative twist, it gives designs more of a fresh point of view.

Your designs are infused with extravagant colors and shapes in which the concept of space is overthrown. How did you firstly approach the concept of space and fashion to create clothing which pushes the boundaries of utility?
Throughout the pandemic, we often find ourselves stuck our living rooms and reminiscing about the small details of normal life that we used to take for granted. However, it is important that we do not forget about the everyday beauty that surrounds us. In my final collection, I have created a living room utopia; a celebration of the beauty and joy that can be discovered in our immediate surroundings at home. My goal was to produce transformative clothing that is functional in unexpected and humorous ways, whether it is being worn to an elegant dinner party or proudly showcased in a living room. Garments that dramatically transform, inflate and change shape to create a sense of drama will challenge the norms of functionality in clothing and will allow me to capture the beautiful shapes of furniture that I admire so much. It is important to know that fashion is ever changing and that we, as designers, have the ability to produce work that is relevant in the current context of the world. I hope that my colorful and energetic take on my ideal living room utopia can bring a smile to someone sitting in their own living room right now.

Fashion together with virtually all elements of culture and society, are subject to change and development. And technology of course presents a main feature of such a never ending change. What is the relationship between fashion and technology in your opinion?
Great question, I think fashion and technology’s relationship will only get stronger. Technology has been developing so quickly these past few decades; we as designers
need to adapt to these changes and push the boundaries of fashion/textiles and technology. This could mean how the clothes are showcased (in the metaverse), the
materials or how things are produced. I think it will be an exciting relationship, I personally am hopeful that technology can drive fashion into a more sustainable and
interesting future.

Explain the biggest challenge in working with 3D print.
The biggest challenge working with 3D print is probably the biggest gift and the biggest challenge – it is having no rule book working with 3D print! As I constantly want to break new grounds with this technique, it is pretty open to interpretation; many experiments annd sampling are needed to make it work. Having this technique that is relatively new in the world of textiles and with no rule book, it is quite challenging to integrate traditional techniques with 3D printing and make it into something desirable and practical. Sometimes samples might print perfectly but not work well on the body. It is hard to find the balance at times. It is a fascinating process, and it is the future. It will definitely be a recurring technique I will be using.

Creating clothing is a craft and art which has the ability to deliver messages and meaning. At first sight, they momentarily construct a public image of the wearer. But as a second, less immediate and long term effect, clothing can influence behaviour and shape people’s thinking. Is there a special message you want to convey through your artistic practice, if so which one?
I want my clothing to remind the wearer of someone or a happy memory. For this collection, in particular, I made looks that are meant to be worn by close friends, mother & daughter, sisters etc. I think clothing has this unique ability to evoke emotions or memories; we all have that ‚lucky shirt‘ or ‚ that shirt you wore on your first date‘. For me as a designer, I think I would die happy knowing my designs created a special memory between friends/ family/ lovers; I can just imagine them saying,

„Remember the time we both wore those dresses, that was fun.“ Perhaps that is the special message I want to convey, having fun and sharing a special memory with the
designs I put out.

You often state that furniture is a big source of influence for you. Do you see yourself approaching other forms of artistic expression in the future, such as interior design for example?
Yes, of course, I definitely see myself and my brand approaching other forms of artistic expression, perhaps merging my brand into a lifestyle brand. I had talks with a friend, who is a chef, would love to do a project where I design the interior, and she would make the food – a whole sensory experience! How fun would that be? I think it is good to work outside your regular artistic expression; it definitely pushes you as an artist and pushes you out of your comfort zone.

Other than furniture and product design, what represent other sources of influence for you?
Movies and art represent big souces of influence to me. I actually started out dreaming of being a fine artist when I was younger. I always enjoyed going to galleries and museums discovering new artists. I would then go home and draw the things I saw. I always draw and paint when I feel inspired. I also watch A LOT of movies and shows, some would say excessive amounts, I LOVE vintage movies, cartoons, anime, horror films. I don’t know why, but watching movies/shows gives you a brief insight into another artist’s mind and point of view. I also think the people I surround myself with are the primary source of influence to me, I have friends of different careers, different ethnicity and different walks of life, having conversation and just hanging out with them is always so refreshing to me, I learn so much about different things with the various people I am with.

Paris Fashion Week is completed in the bucket list. What is your next ambition taking you to?
London Fashion Week perhaps, London is my home, would love to showcase here. Also, I would love to collaborate with different industries in the future, I would love to
work with tech or 3D printing companies perhaps. I think it is the time for the fashion industry to lends itself to other areas, could make fashion more interesting and
unexpected, stir it up. I have big plans for the future, I am now brainstorming and researching for the next collection and I also have collaborations on the way, so please
stay tuned!!
Interview by Costanza Acernese
​Picture courtesy of Celine Kwan

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