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‘GAZE INTO THE FLOWERS IN THE MIRROR’ APUJAN SS21 – LONDON FASHION WEEK INTERVIEW

Written by Brian James @brianjamesstyling and Leigh Maynard @leighmaynard

APUJAN is a London based womenswear label who fuse fiction inspired designs with unique knitwear techniques to produce collections where the surreal meets the real and timeless silhouettes are imbued with a contemporary twist. Blending Eastern and Western influences to create garments which beautifully emphasise the female form, APUJAN have become a must see on the London Fashion Week schedule. We caught up with Apu after the designer’s SS21 show to discuss his inspiration, his influences and the creative journey from concept to digital runway.

Congratulations on your SS21 collection Gaze into the Flowers in the Mirror; which I loved. I understand that it’s inspired by science fiction and the blurred lines where we gradually lose the ability to distinguish between the virtual and reality. How much of that was a metaphor for the digitalised world so many of us are currently inhabiting?

“Gaze into the Flowers in the Mirror” echoes the Chinese idiom “Flower seen in the mirror, moon reflected on the water’s surface” echoing the log-in account and the mimicry of the account.  We further explored how people have used to live in the blurred zone that exists between the virtual and the real, and how people see self-identity between virtual and real world.

What influence and impact did the pandemic have on the collection design process and the physical creation of the pieces?

The designer’s interpretation of clothing, the perception of the flow of the times, and the feeling power of the society are important, also in this era of epidemic.

The overall development process has greatly affected under the pandemic. But fortunately, the epidemic in Taiwan has not yet expanded on a large scale. Both designer and factory have to overcome the design/development issues from yarn dyeing to weaving fabrics in tighter time schedule. And continuously study how to make fabric thinner, how to increase flexibility, how to make the pattern more three-dimensional, and how to make one of the colours transparent etc.

I understand there are over one hundred pieces in the collection. How difficult was it to pare that down to the thirty-two in the show and were there any specific factors that needed to be considered when selecting pieces to be shown digitally?

We have added the imagination of the fashion world after the epidemic into the theme of the next season. More experiences between real and virtual, and more different ways to communicate with people.

We brought out the last 32 in the show with the consideration of visual effects and the film narrative.

I loved the semi-translucent jacquard fabric, the chiffon, and the silk knitwear that you used; all of which married the detail of traditional oriental garments with a futuristic sci-fi silhouette.

How important to you is it to retain that signature APUJAN aesthetic while continually exploring new creative avenues?

Every new collection is like turning a page, a new chapter. We still develop our own fabrics. We continue to study how these fabrics can be thinner, how to increase flexibility, how to make the pattern more three-dimensional, how to make fabric semi-translucent. All of our findings and study like these are accumulated by seasons, we keep discovering new detail and applied in oriental elements with a contemporary twist.

You brought multi-award-winning Taiwanese film Director Jung Chi-Chang on board to film the show. How did that collaboration come about?

Our plan is not about shooting music videos or advertisement video, also it’s not about shooting models wearing branded clothing.

We hope that the film team produce the video in a short film way, but the essence of the film is still a fashion show.

So there are still guests watching the show (Jiajia the actress in the beginning who wears glasses watching the fashion show is like first-row audience, watching the show through virtual glasses), there are linear movements of models, arranged running order, and the balance of mix and match of the collection. Hence you can see the fabric, the accessories, the makeup and hair, the LOGO on the backdrop, the model finale, the music performance, and the designer finale. The elements of our previous catwalk shows are still there, but just presented in a digital way.

In terms of creation, the relationship between film workers and fashion workers are closer, and the two industries have more possibilities. We are no longer constrained by space and time, we can shoot more angles of clothing, we can explain the preparation process and the theme of the collection at the same time, and we have begun to have more narratives.

In the meantime, we also need to change the cold vibe that there are no physical audience exist to a vivid atmosphere.  And we also think about how we can communicate with the audience beyond lens.

COVID-19 has accelerated digitalisation across fashion. As a designer, who always embraces multimedia as an integral part of their shows, is virtual reality something you want to explore further?

The digitalization within fashion industry is already taking place, but the epidemic has greatly accelerated everything.

There are many digital solutions to solve the difficulties of having the physical events, for example, digital shows, virtual showrooms and virtual meetings.

But the effectiveness of all this is still unknown. Everyone is still exploring the new fashion reality. The more they move online; the more brands need to have the ability to communicate directly with customers. This is a new topic for everyone, a new world.

The APUJAN audience always brings huge energy and a sense of excitement to your shows. Did you miss that dynamic and do you think that post-pandemic there will still be a place for the traditional fashion show and the unique atmosphere a physical audience brings?

Yes, the pre-recorded show has really different atmosphere from the traditional show, it is an interesting experience and different sensation. 

The advantages of digital is we are able to add more elements, present more angles of clothing subtly through a pre-recorded way. At the same time, we can reach the audience who are no longer invited only, but from any corner of the world, this makes us wonder, who are the audiences?

In a time of great uncertainty for the fashion industry, you provided us with the certainty of another stunning collection. What’s next for APUJAN as we continue to navigate our way through these troubled times?

The theme of SS21 collection echoes the changes at the time and the great uncertainty for the fashion industry. In addition, since the last fashion week, the development of mask items has begun. The brand has launched masks that can be reused with PM2.5. We believe that masks will become accessories like hats in the future.

The imagination of fashion world after the epidemic will be developed to the theme of upcoming seasons. More thoughts and experiences between real and virtual, and various ways to convey messages between people.

*****

Huge thanks to Apu for taking the time out from his super busy schedule to provide us with such detailed and thought-provoking answers to our questions. Big thanks also to Millie and the amazing team at Black PR for arranging our interview.

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