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Interview – Natasha Chiew – VFW – FW 2016

“MERCURY RISING” is the dreamy title of an absolutely stunning collection by the emerging Australian designer Natasha Chiew.

Blue is widely associated with the planet Mercury and it seems like Chiew created an homage to all shades of blue by playing with light, shadow and patterns. Technics seem to be a big part of her designs. Accurate folding combined with shimmering tissues give the pieces of her collection depth and nearly polygonal shapes. No wonder Chiew is a technician. She completed a Bachelor of Fashion and Textile Design (Honours) in 2015 from the University of Technology Sydney. “Mercury Rising” is her graduate collection and features a series of pleated garments developed from hand folded moulds. The blue and grey metallic tissues seem to belong outer space.

The inspiration for the collection really thrives between heaven and earth. With her collection, Chiew explains, she explores the significance of celestial motifs in Islamic architecture. The sculptural shapes replicate the carved murquanas (detailed, three-dimensional, colored ceiling decoration) of mosques and shrines and the metallic taffetas of the collection reflect the decadence and opulence of middle eastern architecture. We were fascinated by this high level of technical skill to interpret this masterly ways of architecture in an absolute modern if not futuristic way.

But where and how did this spark first light up? 

Photo Daphne Nguyen

Photo © by Daphne Nguyen

L&V: “What sparked your interest in fashion?”

NC: “I’ve loved clothes and styling since I was a child. I love working hands on with things, making things for myself, whether it be jewellery or cooking or clothing, and I ended up choosing fashion.”

L&V: “What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career out of it?”

NC: “I took textiles and design when I started high school and our class got a visit from an ex student who studied fashion at university. When I realised that universities offered degrees in what I was passionate about, I became fixated on it.”

Photo James Coomer

Designer: Natasha Chiew, Photo © by James Coomer

L&V: “You studied fashion design in Sydney, Australia. Why did you choose the University of Technology of Sydney?”

NC: “The ex student that visited us took the Bachelor of Fashion and Textiles at UTS and I decided I wanted to do nothing else but that degree. In the end I finished the undergrad degree and then took the Honours degree year as well, graduating in May this year.”

L&V: “How has your work evolved since you began your own label?”

NC: “I spend a lot of time working on small scale experiments before I even begin to touch the fabrics, which is basically the opposite of what I did during my degree. Since starting my own label I tend to think more about what I want out of the clothing and what I want the label to convey about me.”

L&V: “Does your approach differ when designing menswear compared to womenswear?”

NC: “With menswear I focus more on the pattern making details and fabrications, focusing on particular details that will make the designs unique, where as with womenswear I approach the garment as a whole, focusing more on overall cut and form building detailing in throughout the garment.”

L&V: “What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?”

NC: “At the moment I’m particularly fascinated by sculpture and ceramics, and brainstorming ways to build rigid architectural details into my next body of work.”

L&V: “What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company?”

NC: “How to build the right audience, and choosing selectively about who you partner with.”

L&V: “How would you describe your design aesthetic?”

NC: “Genderless, architectural detailing with sculptural styling.”

Vancouver Fashion Week FW16, NATASHA CHIEW, Ed Ng Photography

Vancouver Fashion Week FW16, NATASHA CHIEW, Ed Ng Photography

L&V: “Your collection “Mercury Rising” explores the sculptural, carved architecture of Iranian mosques and shrines, translating it through intricate hand folded pleats. How much does travel influence your designs?”

NC: “One of the biggest inspirations for Mercury Rising was the inability for travel. My partner and I wanted to go to Iran before I began my honours year, and due to limitations, I researched Iranian architecture to vicariously travel there. However the collection was also inspired by a previous trip to Japan. Travel is a huge influence on my body of work, and it fostered my love of architecture and design, which informs nearly all of my designs.”

L&V: “How did that inspiration of “Mercury Rising” turned into reality?”

NC: “I’d seen an article in an old Vogue about Lognon, the French pleating house, and being mesmerised by the patterns and shapes. Seeing the photos from the mosques in Isfahan and the intricate geometric structures, I tried to marry the two together, teaching myself how to fold pleating forms that matched the shapes I’d seen from Iran.”

L&V: “Is there any place in the world you haven’t been to yet but would like to visit from a professional perspective?”

NC: “I’d love to head over to Turkey and Iran to see the buildings that inspired my collection in person. I’d also love to visit Morocco and Jodhpur and see the blue cities.”

L&V: “How would you describe your own personal style?”

NC: “An off-beat take on classic pieces – diverse tailoring and attention to unique details.”

Photo Yasmin Suteja

Designer: Natasha Chiew, Photo © by Yasmin Suteja

L&V: “We spotted a few tattoos on you during Vancouver Fashion Week. How special are these for you to complete your look?”

NC: “My tattoos are part of me, in terms of my identity but also just as an overall aesthetic. (That sounds so ridiculously pretentious I know.) Ironically the two smallest ones have an emotional meaning for me, and the two larger ones on my shoulders are just for the beauty of their design. The chrysanthemum on my left shoulder was only about 4 days old when I came to Vancouver, so I was still getting used to it being part of my ‘look’. I think more than anything though, my tattoos make me feel more confident than my small frame might convey.”

Photo Dimitra Koriozos

Designer Natasha Chiew wearing pieces of her collection “Mercury Rising”. Photo © by Dimitra Koriozos

L&V: “Are there any types of clothing that you avoid wearing?”

NC:” Not particularly, I love experimenting with cuts that I wouldn’t normally approach. I love fun, playful styles, regardless of colour and cut.”

L&V: “Oceans or Mountains?”

NC: “Oceans.”

L&V: “Can we expect you someday in Vancouver again?”

NC: “I sure hope so!”

Vancouver Fashion Week FW16, NATASHA CHIEW, Ed Ng Photography

Vancouver Fashion Week FW16, NATASHA CHIEW, Ed Ng Photography



Introduction by Cornelia Böhm, Interview by Patrick Mirlach

Runway Photography by Ed Ng Photography

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