After several seasons of recycling the 70s and making pretentious overtures to the trip-hopping, surf-boarding styles of the street, it is decidedly refreshing to meet a Malaysian designer who creates clothes that are simply glamorous. Andrew Gan spent five years in Tokyo, first learning Japanese, and then studying the fashion history; and another eight years designing in Hong Kong. He has followed fashion from fad to fad while refusing to be lured by the trendy turns of the capricious industry he is part of. Throughout his career, he has remained committed to his personal aesthetic vision of high glamour and brilliant tailoring. Rather than succumbing to the temptation of raising street style to haute levels to cash-in on the fashion flavour of the month, he has persisted in making clothes in the best tradition of tailoring coupled with either the play of feathers and bouffant crinolines or the drama of crystal sequins and beads. To put it simply, the real star of Gan's Creations is the art of making clothes.

Unlike the creations of many lesser local designers which may catch your breath from a distance glance but do not stand up to closer scrutiny, Andrew pays attention to the smallest tailoring detail in each piece. Turn up the hem of a black evening dress and you see it finely hand-stitched with a tack hem of narrow black grosgrain ribbon. Examine the construction of his partridge feathered cocktail jacket and you see that they are held up with a strip of horizontally placed whalebone.

Andrew himself is an impish svelte person, often seen dressed in haute Gucci, but is hardly an imp in personality. During Journal One's fashion shoot he had the models, the stylist, and all of us in stitches with his barbed humour and salacious wit. He lorded over all of us and we helplessly let him, unable to lift a finger in protest against his uncanny combination of will and wit. "Andrew, you are prince of the day and you can do whatever you like," I said to him. "No, I prefer to be king, thank you," he quickly rejoined. But the long afternoon's shoot in hot and sticky circumstance showed him to be a true professional and a very stylish human being. First he took everyone to brunch at the Hilton before setting off to the outdoor location in his red convertible piled high with clothes, accessories, shoes, etc.

The evening pieces he had chosen for the shoot were mostly black and very dramatic with incredibly complex head pieces---tiaras with a shield of guinea-fowl feathers, cream turbans with matching cream feathers, black twisted towers made out of velvet and velour. And all were perched on the heads of models wearing six-inch clear plastic platforms. For all the five years he spent in Japan he has no patience with the grim deconstructivism of Rei Kawakubo or the avant-gardism of Yohji Yamamoto. "Comme des Garcons is not fashion, it is a statement. Those misshapen silhouettes, and inside out stitchings require no special knowledge of cutting. With Yamamoto and Miyake, it is really all in the special fabrics they use, like Miyake's pleats," he said. I thought he had a point even though I was very fond in theory of Rei Kawakubo's work. Especially when you think of the elegant and understated use Mary Mcfadden makes of the same pleated fabrics used by Issey Miyake. Andrew didn't think much of the new Antwerp designers like Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester, nor Helmut Lang for that matter. No, his knowledge of fashion history has pointed him in the direction of the tradition of the House of Dior. He adores the glamour, the exquisite femininity, and the roots of couture Christian Dior represents. "Besides Dior, I am fond of Lacroix as well," he said.

But what he did pick up during his stay in Japan was the Japanese penchant for the nightlife. "There was this club in the Shinjuku area that opened from 9:00 p.m. and closed at 9:00 a.m. the next day! The Japanese youth, even in those years, were trendsetters. You could see all kinds of weird but exciting fashion in the streets. By comparison, when I moved to Hong Kong, I found them to be more fashion followers rather than setters. For about ten years they copied everything the Japanese did. Then in 1992 they turned gradually to Europe. Now in Hong Kong, it is the French and Italian designers who reign," he said. In 1993, Andrew returned home and opened his first boutique in Ampang. Now he is looking into expanding to a third boutique in one of the five-star hotels. At the moment he is busy working on his solo fashion show in October which promises to deliver more quintessential sophistication in his continued paean to the feminine and the glamorous.



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