Menswear designer Xie Qian Qian describes her design ethos as bringing a modern touch to more traditional garments, to make them suitable for everyday wear. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
SINGAPORE - Like many menswear designers in Singapore, 26-year-old Xie Qian Qian sees the Singaporean combo of T-shirt and shorts as her biggest obstacle to getting men here to dress better.
"Many of my customers are afraid to try new styles and new designs. The struggle is how to get them to try something different other than T-shirts and shorts," said Ms Xie, who is the founder of ready-to-wear menswear label Graye, in an interview over the phone.
"If you compare it to the dressing culture in other parts of Asia like Taiwan and Hong Kong, Singaporean guys are still dressing very casually," she added.
Hence, it is her vision to reinvent casual wear.
After a short stint designing womenswear, Ms Xie, who is born in Fujian, started her own label at the end of 2016. The Singapore permanent resident describes her design ethos as bringing a modern touch to more traditional garments, to make them suitable for everyday wear.
Barely three years old, the brand comprises clean-cut separates fusing Eastern and Western design elements like Mandarin collars and kimonos. To suit the weather here, Ms Xie uses breathable fabrics like linen and tencel.
Tops start from $80, jackets from $100, and trousers from $110.
Graye's current bestsellers are the lightweight kimonos "with a utilitarian touch", which range from $90 to $135.
Next month, they will be joining the retail racks at Design Orchard, a store that carries Singapore labels, for the first time. Currently, you can buy Graye online (https://grayestudio.com), or at Naiise Iconic in Jewel Changi Airport and Assemble at Orchard Central.
Ms Xie first came to Singapore in 2004 to pursue her studies. She studied apparel design and merchandising in Temasek Polytechnic, before graduating from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design.
While her studies revolved around designing womenswear, she found herself drawn to the practicality of menswear. The lack of a diverse menswear scene in Singapore also made her want to focus on fashion for men.
"It's very functional - you have to think about the technical aspects of the design and how it can be accepted by our male customers; unlike womenswear where we can play with shapes and silhouettes," she said.
"That's the challenge in designing menswear but I quite like it. I feel it's more rooted in reality."
For GSS: Experience Singapore, Ms Xie will be hitting the runway with five new outfits from her Spring/Summer 2019 collection, debuting in person for the first time at the GSS kick-off event on June 21, Orchard Road Fashion Scramble.
Titled Traveller, the complete 16-piece collection is inspired by travel, and designed with loose silhouettes and details like magnetic closures to make the wearer feel at ease.
After the show, you can purchase the outfits - five tops, five bottoms and three jackets in an array of colours - at a pop-up store at Tangs Plaza (Level 3 Event Hall) from June 21 to July 4. They will then be stocked at Design Orchard from July 5.
You can also pick them up at Ms Xie's private studio at 16 Shaw Road in Tai Seng, where she takes complimentary visits and fittings.
Female customers are welcome too. Though Graye is officially a menswear brand, Ms Xie says three in 10 of her customers are women.
"For every design, we try to make it more versatile for both genders," she adds.