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Monday, May 16, 2011

AFF Press Conference - seeing fashion's elite

It was honestly major for me to be considered part of the media for the AFF Press Conference held at St Regis ballroom upon the opening day of AFF. I mean, there were plenty of foreign from Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, China and the US...and there was me. It was also a dream to be in the same room as so many of fashion's elite, which includes established fashion critic Colin McDowell, designer Erdem Moralioglu, the venerable Missoni family, supermodel Tao Okamoto and renowned photographer Russell James.

Members of the press at St Regis ballroom
Mr Colin McDowell with one of the photos of Tao photographed by Russell James
Erdem, Tao Okamoto and Russell James
Tao preparing to be interviewed by Channel U.
Tao Okamoto was very down to earth and still a very sweet and soft-spoken girl at the age of 22. She has an understated grace and elegance about her despite her sporting a signature pixie cut that made look androgynous since the start of her modeling career. She shared that she had been modeling for 5-6 years in Tokyo before moving permanently to New York, and it was initially hard for her being an Asian model amongst a sea of caucasian faces. But she asserts that "it does not matter what your skin colour is, as long as you are truly a good model".

Russell James was familiar to me as a regular fixture on America's Next Top Model, which I've been following avidly since Cycle 6. His works are extensive and have been featured in leading publications such as Vogue, W, Sports Illustrated and have also been displayed alongside famous photographers Irving Penn and Helmut Newton, but he did share that he had his share of "starving artist" years before in Perth. Russell has shot Tao Okamoto in a series of art photographs entited Calm in the Chaos, to be up for silent auction, with all proceeds going towards Mercy Relief for the Japanese quake victims. 

Angela, Margherita and Vittorio Missoni taking questions from the press
The Missonis, I felt, were the most inspiring of all - it was really interesting to hear their first hand accounts of how they built their fashion empire. Angela Missoni said that her parents married in 1953, the same year they started their family business. Her father was in the knitting business while her mother grew up with fashion magazines and so the two things came together - fashion incorporating their signature zigzag patterned knits. But it was Angela Missoni who was the one that really founded the Missoni fashion house - after marrying at an early age, Angela dedicated the early years of her marriage towards her children, opening up children playgrounds and and built an organic chicken farm for her children, which was why her first collection was an entirely kidswear collection. It was not until her 5th collection that she launched Missoni label with her parents' support.

Margherita, the daughter and muse of Angela Missoni, as well as the accessories designer for the Missoni label shared that she doesn't see the difference between normal life and working life. It is a continuous flow of things and events, but because passion is the biggest luxury behind the work they do, that's why the work never ends. "Missoni is a brand created by my family - people that I love. That's why I see it as something I own but not physically. We work because it's our passion." More and more so, I find passion the main driving factor behind so many success stories, especially in the creative industry as it doesn't pay well initially. But I still maintain that we should all do something we love to be happy and satisfied with ourselves and our lives. 

When asked about the recent collaborations with retail chain Target, as well as flip flop brand Havaianas, the Missonis said those collaborations are meant to allow the general public to be able to enjoy a piece of Missoni, but their main label would still remain at a high price point due to the high quality fabrics that Angela Missoni's father personally source. In a way, I guess it's the same as how women seek to own something of Chanel by purchasing Chanel lipstick, because they cannot afford the exorbitantly priced handbags and apparel. It is encouraging to see that Missoni is so well managed, even though they are an entirely family owned business with no outsiders (not even 'outside' managing directors or CEOs) and that is rare in today's fashion industry where many houses are mostly under LVMH or Gucci group. Even Salvatore Ferragamo has engaged someone out from their family as the current CEO. I feel that that has to do with the fact that Missoni has already established itself as a brand that is synonymous with quality and youth from its liberal use of colours and zigzag patterns - the same patterns are reworked and tweaked slightly each season to the point that it has became a classic that is easy to identify with.

Though not invited for the Missoni opening show and most of the shows for AFF, I am still very appreciative of the chance to be involved in AFF. I have my sights set on next year!

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