Singapore-born London based womenswear designer Eugene Lin graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design and subsequently launched his eponymous label in 2009. He talks to The Fashion Law about his brand, design piracy, Preen, and using prints!
The Fashion Law - Tell me a little bit about your brand, since business, now more than ever, is focused on branding.
Eugene Lin - Much has been said and made of branding in the last decade, especially with the musical chairs played by major design houses in the last two years. Eugene Lin has always been focused on creative pattern cutting, largely due to my training and work experience with design houses, which had their own cutting signatures. I truly believe that cutting is as distinctive as handwriting, that it is to a fashion designer what a brush is to a painter. Everyone cuts and sews but only those with a clear vision, voice and proficiency in doing so can stand apart. I am not attempting to redesign the wheel but rather interpret it in my own individual aesthetic through creative cutting, the process of which is becoming stronger and more refined with each season.
The Fashion Law - You interned for Preen and Vivienne Westwood, and worked for Roksanda Ilincic. Why them?
Eugene Lin - At Central Saint Martins, I interned for Tristan Webber, Preen and Vivienne Westwood because I wanted experience in the industry at three different levels: An independent start up, a rising brand and an international power house. I felt that it was vital to understand the demands at each level and see how they were met in order to have a comprehensive grasp of the industry. After graduating, I proceeded to work as a freelance pattern cutter for Ashley Isham and Roksanda Illincic to hone my cutting skills as their aesthetic is very different from my own and I wanted to challenge myself technically.
The Fashion Law - You are known for the cut of your garments. How do you think you and your brand has evolved since you launched in 2009?
Eugene Lin - The cutting techniques in the first 3 collections dealt with subtle subversions in that one had to have a very keen eye or have a decent grasp of garment construction to catch their eye. The palette was also much cleaner and safe. The next 3 collections saw the introduction various types of fabric manipulation such as digital printing, devore, foiling etc which built upon the growing vocabulary of creative cuts to tell the stories of the respective collections. We slowly introduced a few accessories and constantly experiment with new cuts. The growth between seasons is clearly visible as the brand’s handwriting for slim, sophisticated cut and print is becoming stronger.
The Fashion Law - Your prints are exquisite! Your first few collections were print free. Will we see more?
Eugene Lin - Thank you for your very kind comments. The response to our prints has been very positive but I am also very conscious of growing both the brand and my own design vocabulary. I am careful to not allow print to overpower the work – print is merely an extension of a great cut in the Eugene Lin world. But yes, we will see more of it as long as it remains relevant.
The Fashion Law - Do you ever worry about others stealing/replicating your designs? (I only ask this because I am fashion lawyer in training and am very pro-protection for original fashion designs!)
Eugene Lin - I am aware of a few design houses, which have purchased my pieces and a few others who appear to do similar designs after a particular collection receives a feature in high-profile press. I take it as a form of flattery and an admission of their lack of creativity. Many of the signature cutting techniques cannot be easily re-produced by the high street without it looking cheap. True creatives will always have the power to create new work, but copy-cats do nothing but pretend and are destined to be forgotten by history as their ‘work’ is as insignificant as they are. One does not see a copy/rip-off in the fashion department of museums now, do you?
The Fashion Law - I have read that you would consider collaborating with a mess-market retailer in the future but really want to focus on your own brand right now, which I think is SO smart! So many designers rush to collaborate without considering the lasting effect it will have on their brand. Do you have any further thoughts on this?
Eugene Lin - When Masion Martin Margiela announced its collaboration with H&M, I thought all was lost. The same month when Givenchy issued a statement that they would never do it, hope was restored. It all depends on the customer base and the strength of the individual brand. Let’s face it, Margiela has not been great since the designer himself left in 2009. The less-than-commercially-successful collaboration is proof that oil and water do not mix, no matter how desperately corporate giants want them to. Brands like Balmain, Dior and Louis Vuitton are too influential to need the High Street but that takes decades to build up.
The few young (in comparison to the aforementioned houses) designers who have managed to collaborate successfully such as Christopher Kane, Christopher Shannon and Louise Grey have managed to do so because their signatures are so distinctive and recognisable, and because the target audience of their collaborations and their own existing base are not mutually exclusive. In such situations, a mass-market retailer collaboration is a win-win scenario, but Eugene Lin is not there yet. I would like to continue focusing on building our world first.
The Fashion Law - What are you working on right now?
Eugene Lin - We’re currently working on our eighth collection Autumn/Winter 2013.