In Conversation with Cassey Gan: Voices for the Future

In this series of intimate narratives, designer Cassey Gan shares her thoughts on Malaysian fashion, surviving the lockdown and her plans for the future post-pandemic.

In Conversation Cassey Gan

Courtesy Cassey Gan

HOW IT STARTED …

I went into fashion design without knowing much about it. At that point in time, I had finished my Engineering degree and had worked at a few places—nothing brought enough satisfaction or joy to encourage me to keep to that path. I knew I had to take a plunge, somehow. When I started studying fashion, I came alive. I finally understood what passion meant. But truly, what made me feel like “I want to be a designer” was when I met a lecturer in London who told me that design has the power to touch and change lives—“Good designers never fail to inspire through their work”. It was then I knew that I truly wanted to spread joy through my creations. I started my brand in Aug 2014, so it has been about 7 years!

THOUGHTS ON THE MALAYSIAN FASHION INDUSTRY …
To be brutally honest, I feel that the fashion industry as a whole has reached some kind of plateau. I personally feel that it is a lot about selling and much less about concepts and storytelling. I really miss the old Alexander McQueen shows that were always so inspiring and mind blowing.

At the moment, I don’t think there is enough diversity in terms of design style. There are many local brands in Malaysia but not many with a strong identity. In order to overcome this, first of all, new designers who are keen to establish a brand must not be afraid to showcase their unique point of view. If the designs are based on copying or imitating other labels, the brand would drown in no time. The more brands with unique identities, the more exciting our local fashion scene becomes.

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The Judith Leiber Couture Candy Shop of Resort 2016

Two new brands in which I find such a breath of fresh air in the local scene—Behati and Ghostboy Club—have very different stories to tell and are excellent in staying true to their identity. Hopefully, we will see more new blood like them coming forward. Elsewhere, I would personally like to explore more cross-industry collaboration. Perhaps an architecture firm with a fashion designer or an F&B outlet with a fashion designer.

TREADING INTERNATIONAL WATERS: A DIFFERENT APPROACH …
The shows we did in London were more like “Presentation” style. In the show space, we could freely design the stage to suit our palette of dreams and that really helped bring the collection to life. I would personally like to see more of that locally rather than just the usual runway shows. Overseas shows were also more buyer centric, which I hope can be adapted locally too!

In Conversation Cassey Gan

Series 16

You have to be very sure that you truly are passionate about fashion and must be willing to work extremely hard for it. Designing and running a design business are two completely different things. But if you are passionate and willing to put in the work, you will learn and improve along the way. Have an open mind (and heart) and collaborate with others whenever possible.—CASSEY GAN

COPING WITH LOCKDOWN …

Mentally and emotionally, I am okay, generally also because I have a very optimistic and cooperative team to keep things light and positive. Business-wise, of course it is affected by quite a bit as we cannot have our customers come to our studio to view the collections. Due to the never- ending extensions of the current MCO, our new collection launch date has been postponed indefinitely.

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Harper’s BAZAAR Malaysia Spa Awards Giveaway February 2018

willingness to explore other avenues that could enrich the brand further. I can’t say for others, but for me, I definitely want to continue down the path of expanding the brand beyond fashion. I think diversity for a print-based brand like mine is important and much more fun too! I also think this element is crucial to keeping the business alive should such events (such as COVID) happen again. So even if we are back to “normal”, we should not stop pushing the boundaries of our brand identity.

In terms of the industry, I can think of one thing that would have to change. Perhaps the old ways of solely showing a collection physically may not be ideal anymore. Technology has to come into play and digital shows have become an integral part of showcasing a collection.

In Conversation Cassey Gan

Series 16

THE FUTURE OF FASHION …

Personally, I have never quite been on a trend-driven trajectory. I figured if I were to build a trend-driven brand, I could never have competed with the big brands anyway. Hence, I stress again the importance for independent designers to build a brand that is identity driven instead.

IMPORTANT LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE …

Flexibility and diversity are crucial to sustain a label. Flexibility meaning being able to adapt and pivot when necessary and diversity meaning the willingness to explore other avenues that could enrich the brand further. I can’t say for others, but for me, I definitely want to continue down the path of expanding the brand beyond fashion. I think diversity for a print-based brand like mine is important and much more fun too! I also think this element is crucial to keeping the business alive should such events (such as COVID) happen again. So even if we are back to “normal”, we should not stop pushing the boundaries of our brand identity.

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In the Bag

In terms of the industry, I can think of one thing that would have to change. Perhaps the old ways of solely showing a collection physically may not be ideal anymore. Technology has to come into play and digital shows have become an integral part of showcasing a collection.

Series 16

FEELING HOPEFUL …

I have recently given birth and I never thought I would say this, but there is something about seeing a new life being born that keeps me extremely motivated—to want to do better and bring more joy through everything that we do. I also look forward to re-connecting with my team, have some sort of routine back in place and put in 150% to create our pending collection, which has been long overdue! In the very near future, I hope to create a diverse brand with more products beyond fashion. There are also a couple of collaborations coming up! Stay tuned for those!

 

 

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This article originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR Malaysia August 2021 issue.

Discover more from this series here: Motoguo, Alia Bastamam, Khoon Hooi.