Monday, April 13, 2009

My love affair with Europe

Strolling Along Amsterdam by Lisa Burch

Like most females of my generation, I grew up on a steady diet of fashion magazines. I have fond memories of waiting excitedly in the last few weeks in August for the heavy fall issue of American Vogue to arrive. Similarly, I remember forking out precious pocket money just for Patrick Dermachelier's gorgeous portrait covers of Harper's Bazaar. They would be kept in pristine condition underneath my bed, and brought me happy reprieve in the midst of my adolescent angst.

Eiffel Tower by Misha Ashton


But if forced to pinpoint a watershed moment in my design influences, it would have to be my college summer holidays in Europe. Somewhere in the middle of travelling from tiny little Czech towns to metropolitan cities in Spain and Italy, a part of me changed.

Paris by Ciao Chessa

From the inherent almost-arrogant beauty and sophistication of Paris to the shameless, timeless sex appeal of Rome, it was impossible for a naïve, gauche 20 year-old-girl not to fall in love with Europe. And it was no surprise that I did as I became just yet another little human speck in this vast universe who lost her heart to the old world.

Amsterdam Homes by Lisa Burch

It wasn't only the history or the architecture of the cities that I loved. There was an old Viennese man who held my hand in the palace garden and spoke of his beloved city that once belonged to the Hapsburgs. And in Rome, the young men winked and blew benign kisses from their bicycles - it was inhuman to remain uncharmed.

And the women – oh the women! - and their dressing. I remember being completely in awe of a sixty-five year old woman on the metro, looking like a modern-day African queen. She was wearing a fire-engine red outfit with long shoulder-dusters and sharp, sharp stilettos. It was a completely unapologetic dramatic elegance in a pedestrian setting that would have seem so out-of-sorts in anywhere in the world but in Paris. 17 year old girls, dressed up for grocery runs, and yet, always seemed so casual about it. Chunky leather belts, multiple bangles (never just one!), layered necklaces and multi-hued scarves were part of their everyday diet. Beauty, to my eyes, seemed effortless and almost careless.

Instead of figurines of the Effiel tower and the Colosseum, I bought beautiful clothing and jewellery items as keepsakes of my travels. Without consciously realising it, they were dramatic pieces that I could not find in Singapore. Instead of a thin silver chain on a sedate, discreet pendant, I started wearing bold colours and dramatic pieces of jewellery. And then with the perfect clarity of hindsight, I realised that my aesthetic had been born in Europe. While it has slightly evolved over the years, to incorporate other influences, my aesthetic is still very much inspired by my love affair with Europe. And thus, with each piece that I design, together with a million other elements, there is always an abstract component that is my memory of Europe.

2 comments:

Chessa! said...

thank you for sharing my work here!
:) Please visit me at my blog to see more work...
www.ciaochessa.com

OpusMuse said...

I too had a brief encounter with Spain & Paris and have ever since been mesmerized by their charm although it was close to 7 years ago! I'm a lover of old heritage buildings so it was a feast for my eyes, especially so for a Singaporean where things always move so fast & new buildings keep popping up in place of new ones...soon there'll be no history left...sad but true