Why Not? Works: Miyuki Tsuji's Sketchbook and Her Favourite Flowers

Dress to express, not conform.
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Miyuki Tsuji's fashion icons include Nana Komatsu, Lady Gaga, Suki Waterhouse. "I like people who have very eccentric characters and whom can be very fluid and effervescent in their style and the way they carry themselves," she shares. Naming Monki as her favourite fashion brand, it is no surprise when she mentions anything bright and heavily printed for her go-to outfit though admitting that she enjoys switching things up.

Showcasing her collection dERAI\- tomorrow together with other graduate designers at The Substation, she presents ‘Murder on Orient Express’ without the solemnity. The collection leans towards eclectic, optimistic and lighthearted - a reimagination of the detective classic and the 1930s through a Tim Burton light.

With her creativity showcased through fashion as well as floristry, how do they come together in her design-making process or how she chooses to express herself? Let's find out.

It is interesting that you are involved with floristry. Share with us how you got involved with this craft.

I was looking for a job after my 'A' levels, and I always had this fascination with flowers, which is why I got started! This fascination was most likely derived by my mum and grandma whom always had this keen interest in plants and flower arrangements.

People generally presume floristry to be an easy and laid back job, or even a retirement plan maybe - which is not entirely wrong. Working in floristry comprises of long hours, a lot of chore-work and your body may ache, but working whilst being surrounded by flowers is one of the most lovely working environment and it definitely lifts your mood; you’ll also get to meet the nicest customers! Sometimes, customers deliberately come back to thank us after they have delivered their flowers to their loved ones, and these are the moments that fills me with a sense of fulfilment.

If anyone is looking for a part-time job, floristry is something I strongly recommend! Sure, the pay is not as rewarding as many other jobs, but if put your heart into it, what you will reap is bountiful.

Favourite flower:

I say, a Protea? I like flowers that look wild and exotic!

Gardens to visit in this lifetime:

Most recently, I think the garden/landscaping at Changi Airport’s Jewel (like the Shiseido Forest Valley there) is amazing! Amanohashidate (天橋立),  (which is a bay and forest trial) in Kyoto, Japan is also one of my favourite and most unforgettable nature places to visit.

( I honestly haven’t been to that many gardens, but I don’t think you have to go to a specific garden to appreciate flowers or even get a very scenic photo. Whenever I travel to places, I guarantee at least 60% of my photos are of flowers. I think nature/flowers are best appreciated in their natural environments, and as long as you are observant enough, that can be anywhere.)

Does your floristry influence or inspire your fashion designers? How so?

Yes, yes, yes!

One big thing that floristry has taught me is patience, appreciation and learning to be observant. In fashion, you would have to do up several toiles or adjustments to get the right fit, and attention to detail is vital.

When working on a floral arrangement, you picture the flowers in the final space they are going to end up in - and it’s sort of cool that this is how as florist, get to be apart of the everyday of others. Similarly, when designing a garment, you also want to picture it on a model and be able to imagine it in a show or a certain environment after.

Vice versa, fashion also inspires my floristry work! Like how fashion studies how a piece of fabric can be draped beautifully and creatively over a human body; in floristry, we have to know how to package and wrap flowers in a presentable manner – so the skills are similar and really applicable in both fields. In fact, what I have learnt in fashion pushes me to come up with more creative ideas to present flowers. Ultimately, my biggest takeaway: it’s really about taking pride in what you do and ensuring that you do it to your utmost.

On a regular basis, I go back-and-forth between floristry and fashion design, and personally, I find this a very healthy practice. Creating and allowing for gaps in one discipline or a single project is crucial, so that I give myself ample time to reflect and make room for further exploration and possibilities.

The colours and prints stand out in this collection of yours. Share with us your sketching process and how you eventually settled on this palette.

Taking reference from the silhouette and details of the 1930s, with inspiration from the lines of train tracks and train-related motifs - I worked around a rather straight silhouette and then incorporated details resembling the line works.

The original palette for the collection was something more dull than it ended up with. Initially, I did comparisons between forecasted palettes and a typical colour palette from the 1930s, and what stood out was warmer tones against a more neutral singular tone. Furthermore, I also knew that I wanted the collection to be very optimistic and quirky, hence I went with a daring mix of pastels and darker shades.

Why ‘Murder on Orient Express’?

My family doesn't have a car, so I spent most of my time travelling via train. Even when I go overseas, I  travel almost 80% by train. Then, my recent trip to Japan reminded me of how much I love trains, train stations and the slow experience of train travel. Moreover, ‘Murder on Orient Express’ was a movie, set on a train, and which left a lasting impression on me. The movie tells of a plot, which quickly ‘derails’ into a murder case, with an even more surprising twist at the end, that is the most unexpected yet also the most logical. Therefore, more so than the characters or the peculiar 1930s style of dressing in the movie - the essence of the story, the mood and the landscapes were really, the main inspiration for my collection. Surely, the designs or colour for my collection would not explicitly remind people of the movie, but that was not the aim anyway.

A common theme that I found from the 1930s (the backdrop of Agatha’s Christie “ Murder on Orient Express”) and the present day, was also the idea of ambiguity.

This was also evident from the movie’s unnerving balance between suspense and lightheartedness. The 1930s followed the opulent Art Deco period of the 1920s, while foreseeing the solemnity of World War 2, and was set during the ongoing Great Depression, it was an era of great uncertainty. Practicality of dressing contrasted with more feminine silhouettes of the time; vibrant prints juxtaposed the grim outlook - despite all this, people still dressed meticulously and lavishly (partly, due to mass production of fashionable clothes).

Then, in our new era, we are also faced with a new set of uncertainties, a set of feelings unique to our time; and sometimes we embrace this ambiguity, dressing how we feel and sharing to the world our various ups and downs, so much at times, that it feels unreal.

In this peculiar air of ambiguity and uncertainty, the collection is designed to introduce new and a more vibrant outlook to the solemn and heavy tendencies as seen in Agatha Christie’s interpretation. Thus providing an optimistic reassurance that no matter how far we ‘derail(s)’ and stray from the path, everything will eventually find its place with time.

Hence, bright /pastel colours contrast and compliment with darker tonalities, feminine silhouettes inspired from the 1930s, are presented in a new take, through layers and styling - comprising of jumpsuits, pants and outerwear, made for the everyday of the energetic 21st century women.

Through Why Not?, I do hope people can get a glimpse of the scenario and mood I am trying to achieve. It is my own individualistic take, and play on luxury travel.

What keeps you inspired and constantly creating?

Appreciation and curiosity for nature and the quaint, peculiar things is a big part of what keeps me inspired. More often than not, a simple idea or overused idea gets me curious and motivated - I ask myself:

How can I inject my personality and thoughts into this? How do I stray away from looking at it at a conventional angle?

Watching interviews of artists and looking for artists’ works that I can resonate with, is a big driving force as well. Flipping through magazines is also a habit and hobby that inspires me. It’s so cliche - but the knack and revelation you get out of looking at and sourcing off a tactile piece of material, rather than something from online, is so emotional still.

I also like to keep a notebook with me, because I have to jot down something as soon as it pops, else the idea might be lost on me forever. Finally, when creating, the final product is seldom what I’m looking forward to, because the process and stages are always the most exciting part!

What would inject more excitement in the typical Singaporean fashion sense?

Learning how to have fun and play around with dressing is important and it was something that I grew up with.

Singaporeans have to dress to express, rather than to conform.

Obviously, this is not to say that one has to go full glam on a daily basis, but trying something new everyday or adding a statement piece to spice up the daily wardrobe is an effort that will go a long way - I tried.

People have to be open to embracing and supporting new brands and fresh faces that come into the market. Likewise, there should also be continuous support for more independent fashion exhibitions and unique fashion showcases to debut in Singapore. Speaking of which, Why Not? might also be a great chance, and platform to inject this excitement. The collaborative effort amongst the team to deliver the designers’ different style and moods is truly a rare sight and hopefully, this could inspire Singaporeans to be more eager and welcoming of a different possibility and unique fashion future in Singapore - one that feeds off collaboration, inclusiveness, optimism and boundless possibilities.

Fast fashion: yay or nay:

Yay-nay! Or rather.. Nay-Yay!

As much as companies are trying their best to achieve more sustainable methods and as unfortunate as it is - fast fashion is inevitable, just like Thanos is.

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