By Shermin Ng
In 2021, Justin Chua clinched the top prize at Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award with his clear vision, aesthetic sensibility and commitment to craft. The LASALLE College of the Arts alum, who impressed with a two‐piece nylon and taffeta ensemble with transformative aspects, took home a $10,000 cash prize as well as a scholarship for a Masters degree at the Istituto Marangoni.
Shortly after his win, Chua got busy developing his graduation project, POLYMORPHISM, into a full collection and worked towards launching his own label, CONCEPT: 20559—all while juggling the demands of a full‐time job as a fashion design assistant at a local label. Now pursuing an MA in Fashion & Luxury Brand Management at Istituto Marangoni London, Chua tells us about the impact that NewGen has had on him, life on campus (his visual diary ahead), and his hopes for 2023.
How did winning the Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Designer Award in 2021 impact you?
As a relatively new designer, being able to retail my designs at Design Orchard allows me to see how my products are being received by consumers. I’m able to learn and develop the brand in a low risk environment and make adjustments at my own pace as there are lesser costs to cover from a business standpoint with the help of Harper’s BAZAAR and Design Orchard.
The opportunity to further my studies at Istituto Marangoni London has helped me to learn about the different aspects of running a label. Even though I come from a fashion design background, I’m currently taking a Masters degree in Fashion & Luxury Brand Management. These skills can be directly applied and translated to the label as I continue to develop and widen my perspectives while being away from Singapore.
How has NewGen and studying at Istituto Marangoni contributed to your training and career as a fashion designer?
NewGen made me realise that I would have to widen my knowledge as I work towards starting my own label. It’s also the reason why I decided to pursue a MA in Fashion & Luxury Brand Management at Istituto Marangoni as opposed to studying Fashion Design. The course has helped me to understand and better position myself, in terms of the direction that I want to take with my own label as well as exploring new career opportunities.
What does a day on campus look like for you?
I’m usually on campus at least 4 days a week and I have 1-3 classes each day. Classes are 2.5 hours long with coffee breaks in between, so that’s at least 2 cups of coffee per day. Most days we have an hour for lunch so usually a bunch of my classmates and I would go to the nearby market to grab food.
The classes I attend are all lectures at the beginning of the term, while consultations and tutorials towards the end of the term prepare us for assessments and submissions. If I have assignments to complete, I try to get them done at the library or one of the open spaces on campus as it stays open pretty late (I live relatively close to campus).
What are your biggest takeaways from your time at Istituto Marangoni? What are some challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Being in a totally new environment (London) and coming from my BA where I studied Fashion Design and Textiles, then entering a business-centered course for my MA was very different. There was definitely an adjustment period in the beginning. Fashion design has a more hands-on approach when it comes to research and experimentation; currently I’m learning different facets of the business, from marketing to PR and brand management through lectures and presentations by guest speakers. It’s all presentations and reports now, instead of coming up with collections.
Though different, it’s a relatively nice change of pace to be able to learn the business side of fashion. Being equipped with the relevant skill set is necessary for my own growth as a designer and helps me have a clearer understanding of how I want to continue developing the label in the future.
What are your plans and goals for 2023?
I hope to secure internship opportunities with brands that I wish to work with here in London, and eventually, a full-time position after I graduate. I will continue to work on my own label, retail my designs at Design Orchard and grow the brand through different platforms and channels.
What’s your hope for Asian/Southeast Asian fashion in the future?
The fashion landscape here in Singapore is still expanding but I hope more local fashion designers like myself can get more opportunities and platforms to showcase our designs—both locally and globally. There are many great designers in Singapore that deserve recognition. Collaboration opportunities between brands help us to grow as designers and learn from each other; we can also elevate the design scene in Singapore.
Source: Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.