While there’s a been a rise in trendy tailors in recent years, menswear fashion labels in Singapore on the other hand, are pretty scarce. Aside from Biro and Faculty, both of which focuses on quality Japanese-made fabrics and less on trends, precious few other labels come to mind – accessories are a whole other department, I’m focusing purely on apparel here.
Which is why I was looking forward to the launch of alchemist, started by Amirul Nazree, 26, and Nick Sim, 20. The duo are known for their impeccable tastes in clothes (which veers towards a more minimalist slant from the likes of Yohji Yamamoto and Bulgarian-born rising star Kiko Kostadinov) and more intriguingly, neither has a background in fashion. Nazree is an architect at lauded French design firm WY-TO while Sim has just completed his diploma in aerospace engineering.
They held a low-key party in April at the industrial Ubi area to debut their capsule collection – the Vetements-esque approach to showcasing their design perfectly reflected the discreet ethos of their fledgling brand. Perhaps it’s the more industrial nature of what they do (architecture and engineering, hello?), but the five-piece collection, though small, feels extremely consise and considered. Reasonably priced between S$180-$300, the collection comprises of two white shirts, two pants and my favourite, a jacket that can be worn in multiple ways, laissez faire style, via hidden straps, as seen below.
Their first collection, entitled “Anatomy”, is based on ergonomics (not to be confused with economics), or the science that is concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely. Ever had a chair that caused you back problems? That’s an example of bad ergonomics.
Below, we talk to Nazree and Sim to find out more about what makes their brand tick:
- 1. What’s the story behind the name?
- Alchemy came into our mind because it represents a unification and a quest for enlightenment. Just like how the two of us come from different yet similar backgrounds with the same goal, which is to design functional clothing and we will keep working on improving it. Also, we hope that alchemist will allow us to explore further our differences to combine them into a new creation, almost like architecture.
- 2. Amirul, you’re an architect and Nick studied aeronautical engineering. Both seem like unlikely paths to being a fashion designer. Why the decision to start your own label?
- Nick Sim (NS): I feel like we had a different idea in mind than the usual norm of what most people conceive fashion design to be. I wouldn’t actually call myself a fashion designer and I doubt Amirul would too.
- Amirul Nazree (AN): Yes, I totally agree with Nick. I see this as a design project that allows me to explore out of my comfort zone of Architectural and Interior design. The idea of collaborating with Nick (who probably sees this as some form of engineering) and its process convinced myself to start the label.
- It was a tough decision to make but ultimately we saw no harm in trying to put our idea out there, and whatever the outcome, we can at least say that we tried. alchemist should not be seen as a fashion project but a manifestation of design and art.
- 3. Your clothes look like they could be unisexual – was that intentional on your part and if so, why?
- It wasn’t intentional. We originally started with only menswear in mind, but then again, when coming up with the ideas and design we put the general public in mind. We did not expect it to look so good on the female model (Josephine), haha! Unfortunately, right now we can only accommodate for men’s sizes but if demand calls for it, we might consider working something out.
- 4. Where do you guys normally turn to for inspiration?
NS: At the top of my head, some individuals I really look up to are Aitor Throup, Dieter Rams, Richard Serra, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. My short stint working with metals, namely steel and aluminium has led me to appreciate Richard Serra even more. Working with weathering steel, being able to mold them to various forms that are self-sustaining, the amount of thought and effort put into his work is crazy. Mass, weight, counterbalance, load bearing capacity, stress etc… The fact that his work are site specific and to be experienced only in person is definitely something me and Amirul can relate to with the clothes we have put out. Oh and besides all that, I live by three words – ‘less is more’.
AN: Having studied architecture and working at a professional office, I have been taught to be more observant of things around, exposing myself to good design and quality craftsmanship. I have always been interested in music, arts and fashion too. Therefore every single thing that excites me at the very moment I first experienced it will be rooted into me and I try to go back to that feeling when looking for inspiration. It is the same with Nick too, and the sharing sessions that we have sometimes becomes an inspiration. Some of the individuals that I look up to are Le Corbusier, Yohji Yamamoto, Dieter Rams, Rei Kawakubo, Takeshi Kitano, MVRDV, Ryuichi Sakamoto and currently Kiko Kostadinov.
5. Where can interested customers purchase your apparel?
At the moment, interested customers can contact us via e-mail to order directly from us. Meanwhile we are still looking for stockists locally and around the globe. We definitely would want people to see and feel the garments in person, the fabric, the weight and the details.
What’s next in store for Project Alchemist?
This capsule collection will be our groundwork for future collections in improving the comfort and functionality where needed. New pieces will be the improved versions from the pieces of ‘anatomy’ collection. We are curious ourselves to explore and see new details. That said, we do not want to be too rigid, we hope to change in terms of silhouette, maybe even colors and not just be doing one thing.
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