SINGAPORE - When we spoke to Singapore fashion designer Priscilla Shunmugam prior to her Autumn Winter 2014 runway show, she said that the most important thing for young designers to have is an inner confidence in the work that they do; to stick to their vision of the brand, regardless of what naysayers may say.
These wise words indeed rang true for Shunmugam, whose assured and strong presentation at Audi Fashion Festival 2014 showed how far she has come, since she was a one-woman team during the early days of her womenswear label Ong Shunmugam that was launched in December 2010.
Held on May 16, 2014 at Tent@Orchard, the collection featured 30 looks that used the classical cheongsam as its main point of reference, but developed it for the modern woman in a series of beautifully elegant and contemporary ways.
The inspiration behind this season's collection is "Madness and Civilisation", the English-translated book title of Michel Foucault's philosophical discussion on the topic of insanity, where he questioned the many assumptions that we make when we deem a person to be deranged.
Thanks to Shunmugam's fertile imagination, this rather weighty reading material surprisingly provided much creative fodder for a fashion designer.
To make Foucault's influence more "digestible" to anyone who hasn't thumbed through this lengthy read, the designer cherry picked the French philosopher's themes of power, control and conformity, visualised most obviously in the use of four inch-thick cuffs and waistbands on her dresses and pants.
Yet it is in Shunmugam's willing conformity to her design aesthetic that really makes this collection tick, in true Ong Shunmugam style.
For this season, she imposes the following creative rules: Cheongsam only, with a colour palette of predominantly blues and yellows. This meant that every single piece in this collection featured a mandarin collar, the most definitive feature of the traditional Chinese dress. Plus, Shunmugam continued to use traditional Asian textiles like batik where possible, even while fully conscious of the limited selection that she can buy from the artisans of the region.
Of course, some leeway was still possible - these are self-imposed rules after all - and so, detachable collars were featured on selected pieces, in a bid to make the clothing more versatile. The cheongsam did not strictly have to be a dress either, as Shunmugam created playsuits and jumpsuits as well as matching crop tops with mandarin collars and culottes for this collection.
Even the colour scheme was far less restrictive than it initially sounds, as Shunmugam featured virtually every tone of blue and yellow imaginable on both single-tone looks and mixed print dresses alike.