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.
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.
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.