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BrisAsia Fashion Festival celebrates culture through fashion

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon • 8 min read
BrisAsia Fashion Festival celebrates culture through fashion
BrisAsia Fashion Festival celebrates culture through fashion
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BrisAsia Fashion Festival celebrates culture through fashion with a focus on design labels with Asian, Indigenous, and International heritages. Joash Teo is the only Singaporean at the show

On March 25, Brisbane, Australia, celebrates fashion in a way that gives the spotlight to culture. This is done through the BrisAsia Festival Fashion Program, produced by Fashion Festival Queensland, working with BrisAsia Festival producers.

Labels from several locations throughout Queensland including Akira, Native Swimwear Australia, Joteo, Moreno Marcos, Heaven Swimwear, M7 by Miu Tsujikawa, Hestia by Yip Wing Chi, Liz Clift, Mode Voyage, Dan Studio, Myka Studio, Nevidebla, Luna + Sun, Fancynators and Hopevale Arts & Cultural Centre, will showcase at the event.

Commenting on the event, Brent Anderson, regional general manager of South and South East Asia & Middle East, Tourism Australia, says, “Diversity is a huge part of Australia’s story and we are thrilled to be seeing increased demand for supporting our multicultural landscape, icons, and people. We are home to the world’s oldest living culture, and beyond that, the makeup of our various states and territories is incredibly multi-faceted.

With the growing number of festivals in Australia that celebrate this diversity, in various creative ways — whether they be art and fashion festivals, or light festivals and even bloom festivals — we are heartened to see myriad untold stories brought to the fore, and often in ways that are sustainable as well. Now that Singaporeans and (fully vaccinated) travellers around the world are able to visit Australia again, we can’t wait for them to experience this unique diversity for themselves.”

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BrisAsia Festival Fashion will also highlight the work of Singapore’s very own Joash Teo (under his label Joteo) whose style lies in his ability to manipulate techniques and sculpture that extend the boundary of the body. His clothes look protective and insulating, with curved lines and folds that generate a feeling of guarded femininity. Drawing inspiration from the natural geometry of the human body, he works in 3D, defying the restrictions of two-dimensional pattern-making through a combination of couture draping and savoir fare tailoring.

His love for designing began at 17 when he worked as a tailor for hire, a step that would elevate his skills alongside his formal education. In university, he applied his talents in varying fields resulting in forays into wearable robotics, 3D modelling, and multi-year collaborations with indigenous art communities.

See also: The future of fashion is versatile, inclusive and sustainable, says Xie Qian Qian of unisex label Graye

Beyond drawing and stitching, Teo studied the commerce of fashion, having interned for two seasons at 2019 Paris Fashion Week’s main and pre-season. Teo has since graduated with a Bachelor of Design with honours from QUT (Queens- land University of Technology), from which his body of work later received a nomination as “Graduate of the Year 2020” from Design Institute of Australia.

Busy with preparing for his show at BrisAsia Fashion Festival, Teo replies to Options’ email questions from Brisbane, Australia.
How would you describe your collection?

I’d say my collection is really that superposition between avant-garde and the everyday. Not all pieces I say would be wearable for the everyday, certainly not the couture, but there are pieces here and there that, while a little is more removed, are very much tailorable to the everyday.

When you design, who do you have in mind?
The fine details are always changing season to season, but I find the common thread is a person who is a friend to the avant-garde and values craftsmanship that can be adopted into their personal style, whether it be through the finer details or the grander scale.

What is your design philosophy?
It’s quite aligned with the Japanese mindset; I often look to the basic principles of their design aesthetics to find inspiration and balance. I paraphrase greatly, but I summarise it as everything having meaning. Even the absence of meaning is still of statement.

What do you hope to achieve with your collection? What kind of reaction do you want to see from customers?
This season continues on the efforts of our previous shows, further familiarising customers with the Joteo dreamscape and Joteo brand identity. I’m hoping our signature excellence in construction and tailoring will inspire a sense of fascination with the audience, but I think the exciting thing about presenting your work to the public is ultimately seeing how things will be perceived from different perspectives.

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Who or what inspires you?
Anything inspires me, I think it’s a similar sort of state for any designer or creative; we’re quite curious people, so we’re very reactive to anything in and of the world. It can be art, music, dance, even food.

You combine tech and traditional pen and paper design, how do you marry the two? Take us through your design process.
It always starts with the concept of narrative that we have for that show or season, everything is derived from that as a guiding principle. From there I go into hand draped toiles that are then digitised into my Adobe suite, from which I can digitally manipulate and range plan of the results from these cyber-toiles. While these processes do reduce wastage on resources, I never neglect my practical disciplines; while sampling software has developed greatly in their capabilities, I find that only through a marriage of both physical and digital skills can I truly be an all-rounder as a designer.

From here we go into production, and after QC (quality control) has been implemented, the collection is photographed for media assets which are then sent around to a trusted stylist and clientele. Usually, a presentation has already been organised prior in collaboration with a local fashion festival, after which the wider public may place orders to the atelier.

What does participating in the BrisAsia Fashion Festival program mean to you? How do you plan to express your Asian heritage on an international stage?
The prospect of being among the first cohort of designers to feature in the first BrisAsia runway is enough to be excited by in and of itself, but more importantly, I hope my involvement inspires the younger generations to showcase their creativity and diversity and proudly claim ownership of their rich cultural heritage.
I’ve grown up alongside the festival for many years (BrisAsia Festival has run for more than 10 years but has introduced the fashion program for the first time in 2022), and to finally be able to not only participate but marry my great passion for design is an incredible chance I knew I couldn’t pass on. Much like our Western counterparts, the East boasts its own rich history with fashion and it’s a heritage that deserves to be centre stage for the world to see.
While there are undertones of traditional Eastern tailoring in my collection, what I ultimately want to express is a recontextualisation of that principle to reflect not only the evolution of the craft but the evolution of a modern Asia.

Can you tell us what you will be showcasing at the inaugural BrisAsia Fashion Festival event?
I’d hate to give off too many spoilers, but I’ll say this; the collection will strike a balance between reality and fantasy, creating an identity all of its own. The rest you’ll just have to see for yourself, especially now that Australia is open to international travel again!

What was your childhood like? What was your early recollection of fashion and did that influence the way you create today?
My childhood in retrospect was dominated by my sense of curiosity and creativity. I loved engaging and learning many creative mediums including sketching, painting, and even music, I sang and played instruments until the age of 17. It was very much a blessed life where my artistic ambitions were supported, which eventually culminated in my love for fashion.
Funnily enough, my earliest recollection of fashion or just the art of sewing was through my grandmother. She herself was quite a masterful seamstress, she had made clothes for my father’s side throughout their lives, and I always remember playing on her vintage singer machine. At the time, of course, I had no idea what it was, but I would also sit behind it and pedal the machine as fast I could for the fun of it. I often joke that it got me to use the motion for my later life as a designer.

You have won some awards along your journey, what do they mean to you?
It feels like a warm reception from my contemporaries and my seniors in the industry. Of course, you should never live solely for these sorts of recognitions, a garment well sewn should be a reward in and of itself, but I always feel a sense of gratitude that my work is being appreciated on its own merits.

Any advice for aspiring designers?
Good artists don’t starve. While you have a duty of care to your clientele, remember that you have a responsibility to yourself. Your craft and talent are meant to serve you as well.

Moving forward, what’s coming up for the rest of the year?
I’m grateful to say that my calendar is already being filled with new clients, so my schedule is only going to ramp up from here. I’d originally hoped to have another show in August but with the new influx of work, I’ll have to review those plans to better reflect my reality.

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