Cassey Gan is no stranger to the Malaysian fashion scene. Often having stellar shows at fashion weeks around the world, her eclectic designs are hard to miss. With her background in engineering, Cassey’s work often features popping patterns and quirky yet stunning silhouettes. “Traditional” university degrees clearly aren’t a determent for creativity. If anything, it paves the way for inspiration!
However, things have changed drastically this year. With the sudden spike of COVID-19 cases worldwide, it was natural for Malaysia to be hit eventually. Since the Movement Control Order (MCO) issued by the government in March, many businesses have been hit. Local artists and designers were not spared either.
While we miss being able to work with our fellow industry friends, this has also been a time of reflection. So during this lockdown,kdown, we managed to catch up with Cassey to find out how she’s coping and what projects she’s been up to. She’s also been a part of the larger movement of making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our front-liners! Check out her interview below!
First and foremost, how are you doing during this MCO? Time flies! When I get to answer these questions, I am actually on my first day back at work! My apologies on the delayed response. This MCO, I have learned an important lesson, which is to let go. I mean, who would have thought that an invisible entity would come and invade every part of our lives without much of a warning. It makes me realise that no matter how much I try to plan my daily life…sometimes, we just gotta let go and embrace change. It may not be comfortable, but do we really have any other choices? So, I try to learn that this MCO…slowed things down, taking one thing at a time. And then I realised, it’s really not so bad. This MCO is also quite a lot of self-discovery, which is something I appreciate very much. Pre-COVID, I always felt that life was zooming passed so quickly, didn’t really have time to slow down and evaluate what’s important in life. This MCO has significantly increased family time which is something I personally treasure very much.
You've been sewing medical gowns for our front-liners, and we think that it’s amazing how you’re contributing your talent to make a difference. Tell us about that and why you have decided to do it? What are the challenges? As I live with my family, I think the initial challenge, which was a major one, was the source of the materials and whether the materials are ‘clean’. I think the biggest worry I had was if somehow, I contracted the virus through making PPE and infected my family, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself thereafter!
On the other hand, I know that I can sew, and if I don’t put that to good use, I too wouldn’t be at peace with myself. I think being in that limbo of dilemma was the most challenging part of this. Eventually, I decided to take on the project but don’t see my family during that period. Once that decision was made, I was very much at peace with everything. It felt like all the stars aligned, haha! I think the sewing part wasn’t really a challenge. However, it was a very mundane job because you are sewing the same thing over and over and over again. So, that was a bit of a challenge to get through. Thank God for Netflix and Trevor Noah! I sew and watch at the same time, which made the process a lot more enjoyable! How were you working with your team during the MCO? Honestly, I think in our line of work, working from home was not easy. We need the full set of machines to complete jobs. Since we are a small studio, every one of us needs to design and make clothes. There is only so much research/design you can do. That was about all we did for the initial couple of weeks of the MCO. We also tried to have daily Zoom sessions at 4pm for our ‘tea-time’ meets. We will watch some self-improvement videos from Jim Kwik, Vishen and the like. After a while though, it got a bit aimless I must admit.
How has everyone been coping? Most of us in the team were coping okay, although it must have been extremely difficult for Bel — she is from Penang and had to live by herself for the entire duration. So I think when the PPE project came about, it was kind of a project for everyone to look forward to because we can finally put our energy to good use.
How did you stay inspired and creative at home? My passion for design hasn’t wavered regardless of the situation. I have been watching fashion documentaries and stay up-to-date with news on the business of fashion. For leisure, I watch a lot of Netflix. I have also enjoyed listening to my husband’s playlist (which is very different from mine) while appreciating his taste in music. I think just being very in-touch with my surroundings and having the time to really rest keeps me inspired. I also learned how to make masks from a friend in HK. That’s when I started making masks and gave them out to friends and family! So that has kept me busy for a good while! Pin prestige also gave me a brief on illustration, which was very exciting for me as I have not done illustration in a very long time! The brief was to sketch an ideal uniform for a front-liner. I chose to illustrate a cashier and the inspiration was a child's playground. That was really therapeutic.
We are glad that even during this difficult time, Cassey is still able to find silver linings. We hope that you will also be able to also find inspiration from Cassey’s story and do something outside of your comfort zone.
To shop Cassey Gan, do visit their online store! They are currently shipping worldwide!
Words by Denise Lee @createbythemissnise