APUJAN is a London based womenswear label who integrate 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. I met up with Apu after the SS20 show to discuss his inspiration, his influences and the creative journey from concept to catwalk.
1. Congratulations on your SS20 collection “A Strange Thief of Time” which was stunning. The collection narrates a story set in a fantasy land containing an eclectic mix of creatures and objects such as dinosaurs, keys, clocks and space objects. What was the inspiration behind the “A Strange Thief of Time” concept?
“A strange thief of time” is telling a story which the time has been stolen. It features time thieves, stolen time, time observers, interweaving timelines, time movement, and confused time, within both retro and sci-fi settings. In his collection we can see flowers blossoming and dying, deadwood, dinosaur bones, stars and clocks, all of which symbolise the flow of time
2. Your collections often have an otherworldly element to them mixing the real with the surreal. What is it about this fantasy world that attracts you and informs your work?
We not only blend in new and old in the stories but also feature oriental details and western contours, with additional elements that draw on the traditions of fantasy and imagination for the garments. From all the details and elements, we didn’t set a specific timeline, which enable us to further complete the imaginative narrative.
3. Your collections all tell a story. How does the story inform the design process?
I will write down in words first. No matter is a paragraph or just some random words. When the story started to be complete, I will start imagine its pictures and narratives. In the meanwhile, we combine with the knitting development, and in the end we find the order of conveying a story with clothing collection.
4. The presentation of the show was breath taking. How important to you is the setting and the sense of theatre and spectacle when staging a show?
A show includes music, visual presentation, hairstyle, make up, the way of presentation, venue and even the goody bag is part of the essential elements. After all, a brand is not only about clothes but also related to all other elements, which tell a same story in the same time.
5. Music is an integral part of an APUJAN show and you have your own music director DJ Questionmark. The soundscape perfectly complimented the visuals. How do you work together to achieve that?
Stephen and I have started to work from the graduation show of my master year until now the latest season. Every time I came up with the theme of each season, Stephen is definitely one the first partners I would share with. We are basically telling a same story in different ways; which Stephen will put it into music and I will express with the garments.
6. The audience loved it. How satisfying after all the months of hard work is it when your creations receive that kind of response
Sharing our collections has always been the happiest moment. It will be better if the audience could also find out the small clues hidden in our garments. The road of establishing a brand comes with so many good things but also is not an easy path to walk through. It’s amazing that garments have brought us to many places we could have never thought of being, and also appreciated that we have reached out more people from various fields and places.
7. Your work combines oriental and western influences. Has that juxtaposition of east meets west been influenced by you now being based in London?
Fortunately, apart from staying in both western and eastern cities, I have also taken different styles of education in clothing design and have worked in both cities. The diversity of the understanding and histories of clothes has become the roots of my creations, which have also made me learn to work and prepare the show in two different systems.
8. Your pieces always have a timeless quality about them. Previous collections have referenced the dangers of urbanisation and the plight of endangered species. In this era of climate change and fast fashion how important to you is it that your creations possess that wearable longevity
Although we use a lot of natural materials, we put more efforts on expressing the changes of nature by telling our story, including the disappearance of many species and the passing of time. Of course, we hope that our garments are not fast fashion, which we would like them to be without either specific season or specific timeline.
9. You are part of a body of Taiwanese designers who are receiving huge acclaim at London Fashion Week and beyond. What do you think makes Taiwan such an incubator for so many successful designers?
Taiwan has been focusing on technology development for decades, which made the fashion industries in Taiwan started a bit later but already have a really strong resources of knitting technology as a background. Also, since the fashion industry is still under developing stage, there are a lot of possibilities and diversities.
10. What are your plans for the remainder of 2019 and into 2020?
We will be working on reaching out more and more different people by using clothes, including more clothing collaboration, crossover collaboration or designing clothes for people from various industries, as well as expanding our stockists and reaching our further and broader. Whoever the target is, we still want to tell stories by using garments and clothes. In order to tell more stories, we would also want to make good use on more resources to fulfil our stories.
Huge thanks to Apu for taking the time to answer my questions in such a thoughtful and insightful way. Big thanks also to those lovely people at Black PR for arranging the interview.