Jonathan Liang Talks To Us About Literary and Artistic Inspirations, Culture, and Paris

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We’ve been drawn to the last couple of d.d’s (previously known as dude & the duchess) collections for the fact that everything about them has been flawless. Besides giving credit to the label, half of it goes rightfully to its Creative Director — Jonathan Liang. Interviewing him was only appropriate because we needed to get to know the person behind our reduced bank account. We needed someone to blame. Jonathan has built a solid foundation for himself and is regarded as one of Malaysia’s most established designers. He even won an award for ‘Most Promising Designer of 2009’ during Malaysian Fashion Week of that year to boot — it’s 2015 now, that promise is fulfilled. On top of that, he was invited to show his work at A La Mode, a showcase hosted by London Fashion Week, and had collaborated with Uniqlo for its SS14, FW14, and SS15 collections. After following his career for the past two years and listing his successes, we’re inclined to believe that everything he creates becomes the equivalent to a Pink Panther diamond — which by the way, is one of his sources of inspiration. However, Jonathan thinks it’s subjective. So, JUICE spoke to the 27-year-old about literature, living in Paris, and our fashion industry, obviously.

What is it like being the Creative Director for d.d?
As a steadily rising brand, being a Creative Director at d.d requires absolute attention and [a lot of] work time, which I truly enjoy. I love the idea of creating from a mould already given and at d.d, we get just as much freedom as we need.

That’s always a good thing. We noticed that d.d is in tune with literature and art — FW15 used Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven as its source of inspiration and then there’s George Seurat’s art for its SS16 collection — why take this approach?
We want to create an awareness and sensitivity towards arts and culture from within the country and internationally, because art makes one question, think, and inspire. Traits we want in all our garments, we want our customers to experience the moment when one looks at art and interpret its meaning in their own way, or in this instance, their style.

Were you born with the gift of having a sharp eye for detail or was this something you picked up later on in your career?
I don’t know really, this is rather subjective. I don’t think I’m born with any gifts, but I believe everyone is born in a manner their brain would absorb the environment they grow up in. This will entirely affect the way they perceive things. Which eventually leads to whether or not what they perceive is positively accepted by the public or otherwise, I believe.

That does put things in perspective. You’re currently based in Paris, so how do you manage the quality and designs of products being made in Malaysia from the other side?
With hundreds of emails a day. This keeps the team in close tight-knits, and that every single detail is not missed. Communication is vital, of course.

source: Jonathan Liang

Don’t we know it. You’ve travelled all over the world — Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong being the most frequented cities — what’s your take on the different cultures you’ve seen?
It’s crazy how every culture is so different from one another! It helps me keep an open mind in accepting everything. I’ve always liked studying people, social norms, and whatever else I can come up with in my mind for a story of that particular moment. In a way, it connects everyone to everything they thought they knew. Also, the food. The food is the main criterion (laughs).

Prioritising food is what makes us Malaysians. Speaking of our people, what do you think Malaysian designers have to do in order to bring our fashion industry to a higher level?
I think Malaysian designers need to start being innovative, to find the balance between wearability and innovation and most of all, to be smart in understanding the business. Plagiarising is also a common theme in the local industry, which eventually gives the country’s designers a bad reputation in the international market. Originality and consistency are lasting factors in a brand, which I hope our local designers would understand.

Sound advice. We have to ask and you probably get asked this a lot but… what’s it like living in Paris? Does it really smell like a cat’s litter box and are Parisians rude to someone who doesn’t speak In French?
Paris is paris. It’s like home to me now. It does however, smell like coffee and cigarettes a lot, and if you pick a friendly face to speak to in English, you’ll be fine. It’s only scary after midnight in the metros. 

Like our KTM stations except we’re on alert all day! We’re sure you’ve had your moments of feeling uninspired. A ‘designer’s block’, if you will. How do you overcome that? And what sort of advice would you impart to a person that’s feeling the same?
I would go for a long walk, a really long aimless walk and eventually stumble onto something that kicks me back into shape. If nothing happens, I take another long walk. Everyone has their own coping mechanism, it’s crucial you try to identify your happy place as soon as you can.

What’s your favourite JUICE?
My favorite JUICE would be my unhealthy obsession with bubble tea, which I am trying to recover from.

Now we want Chatime’s Pearl Milk Tea. Thanks, man. 

Check out d.d collective’s SS16 ‘défilé IV’ Collection here.

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