We find Moto Guo at his studio in between model fittings and deciding on looks for his runway show in KL. Moto is calm and quiet as he surveys the mood board before him. Suddenly, fluid Mandarin pierces the silence as he delivers a rapid yet steady stream of decisions to Jay Ang, his business partner, and Kinder, his assistant designer.
Finalising his discussion with a polite thank you, he turns to greet us with a grin that only Moto can pull off – geeky with a hint of rebelliousness and full of youthful charm. With the excitement surrounding KLFW reaching its peak, we managed to sneak a little chat with the Malaysian LVMH Prize semi-finalist.
Congratulations! How did the LVMH Prize nomination come about?
It came as a huge surprise! We entered the competition thinking “Why not? We’ve got nothing to lose!” and really did not expect the nomination.
It was well deserved! Will you be entering more competitions in the future?
Thank you! Yes, most definitely. Besides the prize itself, the mentorship that comes with winning these competitions can really help young labels such as ourselves grow. Even though we didn’t win the LVMH Prize, the nomination and recognition we gained through it not only strengthened our portfolio, but it also served to open a host of opportunities to us.
It sounds like these competitions are incredibly beneficial for young designers.
Most definitely! They encourage improvement and more preparation that pushes you to achieve a higher standard. You can gain a lot more exposure through them and of course, have the opportunity to network with the wonderful people that you meet along the way. Having said that, it’s important to remember that you should participate in those that are suitable for you and your brand.
What was your key takeaway from the LVMH competition?
To always keep a good and healthy balance between business and creativity; a solid and stable business structure is crucial for designers in order to support the creativity. We were also advised to maintain our sense of humor as well as the rich energy and emotion in our work, which interestingly is what I think the fashion industry needs at the moment.
Tell us about meeting Uncle Karl.
To be honest, we did not expect him to be as friendly and chatty as he was! He liked our colour combinations and unique signature shibori pleats, which obviously made us really happy! Personally, it was a real honor to meet him at such an early stage of my career. I am very grateful and blessed for the opportunity.
“That rush of excitement knowing that Gucci’s show was immediately after ours was an incredible feeling and we could hardly believe it was real.”
And what of your recent runway show in Milan. How was the experience?
Going to Milan and staging our first proper runway show is definitely one of the biggest highlights of my career to date. It’s an indescribable experience. That rush of excitement knowing that Gucci’s show was immediately after ours was an incredible feeling and we could hardly believe it was real. We really appreciate the financial and emotional support we received from Cameramoda and the team involved in making our show a reality.
We understand it all happened so quickly! When did you find out?
It all started back in April when we received an email from Cameramoda inviting us to showcase our work. We learned that Sara Maino from Vogue Talents (whom we met at Pitti Uomo) recommended us to Cameramoda. To be remembered and referred to by someone so important in the industry is truly amazing. Again, we are extremely thankful to have both her and Cameramoda believing in us and supporting us financially during the show.
As it was your first runway show, how did you find it?
It was an eye opening experience for us especially since we are still so young. Needless to say, the amount of work and preparation that goes into pulling off a successful show is not trivial but we were fortunate enough to have the right support to physically and mentally rise to the challenge. It was also exciting to see major publications such as WWD, L’Officiel de la Mode and L’Officiel Italia among others, writing about our collection. We will be eternally grateful for the exposure they have provided us with.
Being a young designer, do you have any advice for fellow young or aspiring designers?
In general, always believe in yourself. Personally, I feel a little self-doubt is good to push yourself out of your comfort zone but not too much as it won’t do you any good either. Do not overthink things; there should be a natural flow to things. Also, you will receive plenty of feedback so be open to it but know that you do not have to act on it.
“Always believe in yourself.”
Tell us about your SS17 collection and the inspiration behind it?
The theme for SS17 is “Picnic in The Society” where “Picnic” symbolizes teamwork and peacefulness while “Society” represents the fashion industry. This collection embodies two things: 1) the importance of teamwork to achieve our goals and overcome any negativity that we might experience while working in the industry and 2) to remain level headed and calm in a fast-paced buzzing industry.
Why did you opt for acne as a make-up choice for your models?
The idea came naturally; it has always been something I wanted to try on my models. Moto Guo’s muses have always been nerdy and preppy teenagers anyway and on a more personal note, having acne and rashes was something I grew up with as a nerdy school teenager myself. The idea gelled well with our story for “Picnic in The Society” as well. We envisioned a scene with sweaty teenagers in a park having a picnic with lots of junk food on a hot summers day – it made the perfect recipe for cultivating acnes.
What about having acne as a “beauty trend”?
It was not meant to be a beauty trend. It was about growing up and overcoming one of the most important stages of our lives as we begin to shape our own identity as individuals. I like to think of it as our take on the coming of age, which is also reflective of our label in many ways.
Do you have any thoughts on the acne issue and the public reaction that followed?
To be honest, the reaction was surprising. There was a lot of supportive feedback but there were also a number of negative ones. We’ve had some individuals leaving comments on our social media criticizing us for sending models down the runway with “acne”. Despite this, we found the responses we received to be very interesting and almost inspiring. We learned that we can’t please everyone – they are entitled to their own views and opinions after all!
Were there any issues when you proposed your idea and vision to the model casting agencies, make-up artists, or the team behind the fashion show?
Not at all, they were just as excited as we were and were very professional.
Yes, It is!
On another note – we were excited to learn that you have added womenswear to the label!
We had been planning on pursuing womenswear for quite some time. It fits into our belief that our pieces can be worn by all individuals regardless of gender or identity.
Were there any concerns from a business perspective?
Not particularly – I think it is a good opportunity to showcase our versatility as a label. Also, we are looking to expand our market reach so we wanted to offer more choices to buyers and customers.
Should we expect to see a full womenswear collection in the future?
You never know! This is merely a preview of what we potentially have to offer at Moto Guo. Strategic planning is always required when we embark on a new direction and I think we have made a good start with this little introduction in Milan.
We’ve also noticed more accessories from you…
When we design a new collection, we focus on creating whole looks and accessories are a part of that. The demand for our accessories from buyers and customers has been pleasing and for us, they are a great way for customers to be introduced to our growing label. I think they also make lovely gifts!
“It’s such a challenge to reach a wider audience in an effort to grow our brand while maintaining our identity …”
Speaking of looks, do you think young designers struggle to define the line between creativity and making wearable, “more commercial” pieces?
Yes, I think that’s one of the more prominent struggles that young designers, myself included. It’s such a challenge to reach a wider audience in an effort to grow our brand while maintaining our identity as an independent brand. To me, we have to communicate our identity effectively to our customers and with that, we can get to that sweet spot of designing commercially appealing pieces without losing our core identity as a brand.
Finally, the questions I’ve been dying to ask, tell us about your pet dog…
Rubber is a French bull dog and he is almost 2 years old! Very active, playful, and super affectionate. I’m constantly inspired by this little fella. We might design some pieces inspired by him in the near future.
***credit images Moto Guo