It’s certainly common to see the latest designer drops on runways in Paris and London, but how many of us are in the loop when it comes to the fashion scene back home?
The local fashion scene is just as creative, dynamic and inspiring. Afton Chan, designer and co-founder of local fashion label Reckless Ericka, is a true testament to that.
To her, the best part of being a designer is creating, and she aspires to be the alternative voice for fast fashion.We caught up with Afton to find out more about her label, her muses and the inevitable changes in the fashion industry.
Reckless Ericka was born in 2009 — there were hardly any local designers in the scene then. Apart from international labels like Zara and Mango, there were few fast-fashion labels around. Afton shares that due to the market conditions, she and four other friends spotted this as an opportunity to enter the fashion industry.
It’s been nine years since the label’s inception, and while three of her initial partners have returned to their home countries, Afton “married my (her) best friend and co-founder of the label, Louis!”
This may sound like a happy ending to a fairy tale, but don’t be fooled — the journey has not been a bed of roses.
When I ask Afton if she found it hard to succeed in the local fashion industry, she says: “what is interesting about fashion is that it is constantly changing and with that, challenges change too.”
She remarks that she would advise her younger self to get a finance team and business mentor. Fast forward to the present, and the talented designer finds manpower the main challenge, elaborating that it is not easy to hire a “committed and responsible person that has a heart for the company.”
Afton then walks me through the design process of a typical collection.
“We start of with narrowing down themes,” she says, stating this as a first step before searching for the appropriate fabrics. However, the design process is flexible, and often changes along the way.
“Most of the time, the fabrics inspire us to change certain ideas and directions in the theme, and we go along with that.”
Afton also shares with me that after working on “hundreds of outfits,” she “narrows down and picks out details” from a certain design and combine it with another.
After brainstorming for designs, she then goes through drafting, sampling, fitting and eventually production of the actual pieces.
For a relatively young local label, Reckless Ericka has achieved quite a bit in the last 9 years. One key achievement was the invitation to design pieces for the production “The Incredible Adventure of Border Crossers”, where they designed 148 pieces for 22 performers during the Singapore International Festival of Arts.
“Looking back, we were really blessed to be at the right place, at the right time, meeting the right people who gave us the opportunities through the years,” answers the designer humbly, when I ask how Reckless got to be part of the production. She also adds that she is “really thankful” for the support from her customers, who work as directors or producers for other fashion shows that Reckless Ericka has been part of.
Afton’s current fashion muse is Mr Bon and Mrs Pon, an elderly Japanese couple went viral on Instagram in 2017, for their themed couple outfits.
I then ask Afton where she draws inspirations for her collections, and if she has a favourite collection thus far. The passionate designer tells me that she doesn’t have a “fixed, single object of fascination and inspiration”, because “inspiration comes from everywhere'”, and ‘”springs up when you least expect.”
Not surprisingly, she finds difficulty in picking a favourite collection.
“This like asking me to choose my favourite child,” she says. However, she adds that if she had to choose, she would pick her very first collection, titled Brit Kid Goes to India, as it has a special place in her heart.
Afton clearly keeps herself updated on the latest changes and has a comprehensive understanding of consumer behaviour. She remarks that the fashion industry is constantly evolving. “In the past, the mentality of local consumers were geared towards finding a garment that is long-lasting,” she explains.
However, in the current age of social media, she notes that consumers look towards purchasing cheap and fast fashion, as they “wouldn’t want to be seen wearing the same clothes all the time” in their social media posts, instead preferring clothing which is affordable and can be discarded after a period of time.
She cites this as an external challenge for the label, to “reach and educate consumers”, on why they should selected garments “designed in-house and made at ethical factories using quality materials.”
If you look closely at Reckless Ericka’s collections, you’ll find something “off-beat in the details” — like asymmetrical angles, the use of layering as well as the juxtaposition of sort and hard materials.
Through her collections, Afton hopes to “inspire people to be RECKLESS and to travel places.” She explains that travelling allows one to make an impact on the people they encounter. The local designer also emphasises that when you is reckless, you are “authentic to the people around you” and “real to yourself”.
Her wise words for fellow aspiring designers?
“Have hope, as it is a positive expectation of good.”
View Reckless Ericka’s latest collection, klein, here.