Designer Focus: Cassey Gan

We meet Cassey in her studio tucked in between a row of shops reminiscent of the older days. To the left, a traditional herbal Chinese medicine shop selling bitter remedies for the common cold finished with the sweetness of honey as a reward to the unpleasant onslaught of the frighteningly black yet soothing concoction. At the entrance to her studio, a group of senior men and women flock together like a gaggle of geese, happily chatting away in their mother-tongue and dialect on make-shift plastic stools and tables over simple wonton noodle soup and chyrsanthemum tea. And as we make our way up to her studio over a flight of dimly lit stairway, we are finally greeted with a familiar welcoming smile from Cassey as she invites us into her sanctuary.

The studio reception is clean and modern, fueled with natural lighting and a myriad of colourful paintings and ceramics, mostly from her college Professors and friends. “Would you like some tea?” Cassey offers brightly as she promptly makes her way to the kettle and picks a delicate ceramic mug to house the dainty teabag. I never refuse her kind offer, it has become a little ceremony of some sort whenever I visit. And very often, while she attentively makes my tea, I instinctively find my way to her pieces hanging proudly as display around her studio; inching closer to take a look at her latest prototype. Amidst the silence and the bubbling of hot boiling water in the kettle, clicks and clacks followed by rumbles of the sewing machines echo the studio from the work-space now consisting of several employees.

As Cassey gently sits my tea on the table, she excuses herself and glides swiftly to an intern seeking advice over a pattern. I enjoy my cup of freshly brewed green tea against the backdrop of weaving creativity. It is reassuring to see that the label has grown and is continuing to do so at a relatively comfortable pace. She joins me as soon as she is done and we start our little tete-a-tete, reminiscing past, present and future. And while Cassey cheekily assures me that we won’t be seeing form-fitting silhouettes anytime soon in her designs (much to the chagrin of most loyal fans I suspect), the brand sees itself moving progressively towards a more focused direction and identity.

How does it feel to have 10 collections over the past 3 years?

Time really flies, that’s for sure. Initially, the first few collections we had were capsules to test the market and gain feedback from clients. And although Singapore gave us a head start and we were doing relatively well, the brand only started to receive serious attention when we were at Series 05 and 06. I would still consider the brand very young and hope to maintain this continuous growth organically. I think Series 10 symbolises a fresh start and I hope to be able to celebrate my 100th collection like Dries Van Noten recently did haha!

Tell us about series 10 – What was the inspiration for this collection?

Series 10 is inspired by Memories. For this collection, I looked to my years in high school and my early days as a fashion student, revisiting early influences from Jim Osman, Ted Larsen and Le Corbusier to name a few. I also took the opportunity to experiment with texture and layering different fabrics to emulate the complexities of the human mind.

Throughout your 10 collections, you have stuck pretty true to the core of the Cassey Gan brand without conforming to form-fitting silhouettes, despite many requests from clients and editors – Why is that and will we expect something different soon? Dare I say, new silhouettes or brighter colour palettes?

Haha! I see where this is going – new silhouettes are a definite yes, but they will not be tightly fitted – It will only go bigger! As you are aware, the label is centred around comfort and style in everyday dressing; and we believe that a more relaxed silhouette best represents our identity.  Brighter colour palettes most definitely. For series 11, we are experimenting with lots of pastels and shying away from our signature blacks and blues. Also, do expect more sleeves.

We have also noticed a few new details such as lace and leather, which is great! Why the change and will we be expecting experimental looks in the future? 

I am always challenging myself to try new things whilst keeping to the brand identity. All the prints are produced in-house and for this particular season, I wanted to try printing on different textures specifically, on lace, to add more depth to the collection. Also, lace exudes a sense of femininity and gives off a refreshing look. I would love to continue exploring further and am keen on applying materials such as plastics, acrylic and nettings to my future collections. The possibility of printing on these different “ingredients” is exciting and it would be fascinating to transform and mould them into a wearable silhouette. After all, our brand is passionate about interesting wearable clothes.

How did London change you personally and how has that influenced your designs?

London is filled with many inspirations and London College of Fashion was a great place to learn my craft. I love the fact that there is always something unexpected that would trigger my senses in every corner. It’s a great feeling, to be able to roam around the city and have this sense of being free to explore. I also love how open London is to creativity and individuality. Simply dressing as yourself and being accepted for your sense of style is empowering and to me, important. As a designer, I find that this feeling of freedom, where anything and everything is a possibility, extremely conducive as you are never afraid of making mistakes and trying something new. Ultimately, my experience in London has instilled in me the spirit of ‘anything is possible’ and this inspires me greatly when I am designing.

Who is the CASSEY GAN girl and who is your ideal CASSEY GAN woman?

She appreciates quiet confidence, has a great eye for detail and has an amazing sense of style. My ideal Cassey Gan woman is someone who is simply not afraid to experiment different ways of dressing, pairing and layering. Our clothes are classic, versatile pieces and a Cassey Gan woman will have no problem mixing the collections up and still looking very current.

“Simply dressing as yourself and being accepted for your sense of style is empowering and to me, important.”

 Where do you see your brand going over the next few years?

Considering the current retail scene is not at its best, I am actually trying to scale down a little in terms of production as I do not want to over-produce which, in turn could lead to excessive waste of not just resources but also materials and fabrics. As a young designer who runs her own business, I think it’s important to be savvy these days and also, the less waste we produce, the better the impact on the environment. Over the next few years, I would love to see my brand gain more traction around Asia and be stocked in 10 different cities in smaller, more niche boutiques. Also, my 2018 resolution would be to start focusing our efforts online!

We have a collaboration coming up soon and we are very excited! What was the inspiration behind this capsule collection with CUEVOLUTION?

This will be our second collaboration over the three years we have worked together and it is just as exciting as the first! The collaboration is timely for Chinese New Year and I personally find that Chinese New Year is filled with plenty of happy memories which we are reminded of yearly. When I was a student living abroad, coming home to celebrate the new year with my family was something that I had always looked forward to. The collection consists of four key designs that are an extension of Series 10, which is about Memories. For this collection, I chose plenty of checks and grids to signify that a lot of our memories are mostly confined and stored away. And with time, as we slowly uncover and rediscover them, it awakens a very nostalgic feeling which I feel is quite a breath of fresh air. Use of bright yet warm colours such as pink, red and yellow to suit the festive mood of the Lunar New Year evokes a sense of nostalgia throughout the collection.

Finally, what are your top 10 tips and advice on personal style?

Honestly, I don’t have 10 tips. However, I do have one important tip that is dear to my heart: Do not conform and follow trends blindly. Seek comfort in the clothes you wear, only then can you be truly confident and feel good about yourself :).


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