24 Minutes with Jasmine Chong, the Malaysian womenswear designer who will be competing on Making The Cut
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Having met Jasmine Chong at her second presentation during New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer'17 back in 2016, the 32-year-old is one of the few Malaysian creatives who are making waves in the international fashion scene, and is definitely one of the rising designers to watch. Currently based in New York, Jasmine’s set to compete in Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn’s new fashion reality show, Making The Cut, on Amazon Prime. Ahead of its premiere tomorrow (March 27), Jasmine gave us a prelude of what’s to expect, deets on her eponymous label and more.
Congratulations on Making the Cut, literally! How did your participation come about?
I was in LA for a trunk show, and the casting director e-mailed me. I actually thought it was spam at first! But I answered it out of curiosity, and before I knew it I was in meetings with Amazon. It was completely unexpected.
Before the show airs tomorrow, can you give us a prelude of what to expect, and how different it’ll be compared to the other design competition such as Project Runway and Next in Fashion?
The show—hosted by fashion duo Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn—brings together 12 entrepreneurs and designers from locations all around the world to compete in turning their emerging brands into the next big global phenomenon. It features a team of famous fashion experts as judges, including Naomi Campbell, Nicole Richie, Joseph Altuzarra, Carine Roitfeld and Chiara Ferragni. Making the Cut's winning designer will receive a USD 1 million prize to invest in their brand, and winning looks from each episode will be shoppable on Amazon immediately following each episode.
How do you feel being the only Southeast Asian (and Malaysian) designer on the show?
I’m so excited to represent the region. My fellow designers come from all over—Belgium, Italy, Germany, the U.S.—so I'm super grateful to be selected as one of the 12 on season one of this brand new show.
How’s meeting Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn like?
It was so cool! As someone who graduated from Parsons, Tim Gunn is an icon, as he was the Dean of Parsons at one time. I also loved meeting the other designers on the show. They are all so talented!
You’ve worked for Anna Sui, Halston, Marchesa, Thakoon, and Tory Burch. How did each of this experience help shape your career?
I learned so much about the inner workings of iconic American luxury labels, in different departments, from design to sales and marketing. It helped me so much and given me solid footing in starting my own career. One piece of advice that I always carry with me is from working under Anna Sui, who said: Know your voice, and know your craft.
You took a hiatus from the NYFW schedule the past few years. What were you working on during that time?
The pace of fashion is something I find myself thinking about more and more. I took the time to really get to know the women who wear my clothes. I travelled to these women, in Miami, LA, Hong Kong, Palm Beach, to really listen to what she desires. Sometimes you learn so much more when you're able to listen, instead of being concerned with the output. I've learned so much and feel well equipped to continue producing meaningful work that resonates with this woman. As a designer who draws upon personal experiences, my process tends to be a slower and a more organic approach. I love the design process as it exists within my label—finding inspiration, developing and draping new silhouettes directly on the form or body. Sometimes that requires taking a step back to recalibrate, and I believe all good things take time.
What’s the inspiration behind your recent Autumn/Winter 2020 collection?
You know that feeling when you're in a grand, stunning space, and you feel sort of... insignificant? That was me at the Palace of Versailles. I fell in love with the frescoes, and felt like the more celestial the paintings were, the more human and flawed I felt. The collection consisted of light-as-air silks anchored down by heavier, textured suiting. I drew upon traditional Grecian sensibilities, which is a hallmark of the label, and incorporated elements of Rococo dressing, such as in the intricate French lace.
Who is the Jasmine Chong woman?
She's unapologetically feminine and draws strength from her softness. She loves luxurious details, but in a way that is subtle and powerful at the same time.
With sustainability being the topic du jour in fashion nowadays, what are your thoughts on it?
I think when you invest in pieces that you fall in love with and want to wear over and over again, that is better for the environment. It's not a wear-once piece that is disposable. Many of our signature pieces are also size-agnostic, allowing for changes and fluctuations in a woman's body.
Any plans to bring the label to Asia?
I have customers in Asia who are always asking the same question! For now, I'm based in New York, but given the opportunity, I would LOVE to do something back home.
What’s next for your label, and for you personally?
It's been a really busy year for me so far, so I'm excited about what else the year holds. My family is in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, so here's hoping that once the current pandemic ends the borders will be open and I can spend some time with them. I miss home so much!