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Sun, Oct 03, 2010
The New Paper
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Bra zeal
by Shree Ann Mathavan

KOHL-rimmed green eyes, a penchant for wearing live snakes as jewellery and keeping cheetahs as pets, were just some of the distinguishing trademarks of early 20th century Italian heiress Marchesa Luisa Casati.

And when Miss Ada Yeong, 24, learnt about the eccentric woman during one of her fashion design classes at the Raffles Design Institute, she knew that she had found the inspiration for her first attempt at designing lingerie.

It was a move that paid off. Miss Yeong's whimsical feather-fringed bra and underwear, called 'Marchesa Luisa Casati', came up tops at the national finals of the Triumph Inspiration Award in May this year.

The lingerie design competition for fashion and design students saw Miss Yeong beating 11 other finalists from her school and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to win $2,000 worth of cash and prizes.

Her win means that later this month, Ms Yeong, who graduated three months ago with a Bachelor of Design (fashion design), will be flying off to Milan, Italy on an all-expenses paid trip.

There, she will be pitting her design against 27 other countries' contestants in a global finale of the competition on 23 Sept. Countries participating this year include Greece, France, Italy, China and India.

This year's Triumph Inspiration Award is into its second year and centres on the theme of icons.

Competitors were given free rein to select an iconic figure of their choice and design a bra and a pair of briefs based on the icon within two weeks.

For Miss Yeong, the Marchesa's influence permeated all details of her design, from the colour scheme right down to the intricate stitching on her pieces.

Her colour palette of black, blue, violets and silver, for instance, reflected her heroine's 'mystical life'.

Feathers purchased from an art supply shop were carefully hand-stitched onto her design. Marchesa is understood to have had a perchant for accessorising herself with feathers.

In addition, the zig-zag patterns she sewed on depicted a maze.

Miss Yeong said she spent about $150 and 'probably as many hours' on her design.

Explained Miss Yeong, who aspires to have her own label soon: 'The interlacing was meant to showcase just how the Marchesa traps men, just as how women tend to use lingerie to entice men into a love relationship with them.'

One of the design challenges she faced was the limited area she could play with.

She said: 'A bra has a very small space for you to bring out your design, it's not like a costume where you have a lot of space to work and play with.'

Another obstacle? Lingerie tends to be made with delicate material, so 'a lot of patience' is involved because designs have to be hand-stitched, she said.

Miss Yeong, who had been juggling work for her graduation fashion show during the same period, said: 'It was the most stressful time of my life.

'We were literally in school from 9am to 9pm. But now, looking back, I do feel proud that I applied what I learnt in school.'

Now a designer with a local accessories brand, she is counting down the days to the finals of international competition, which will take place during the Milan Fashion Week.

She hopes to build up her industry contacts in Europe by networking with the other designers during her stay there.

She said: 'I'm very excited, I hope that my designs will show European designers that Asian designers are just as capable of good craftsmanship as they are.'

Miss Doy Teo, Director of Triumph International, and one of the judges for the national competition, heaped praise on Miss Yeong's design.

She said: 'We are very happy with the fact that Singapore has such aspiring designers and Ada's piece is an ingenious design worthy of competition on a global scale.'


See through, yet covered up

While Miss Yeong chose an Italian noblewoman as her inspiration, her schoolmate Nicole Wong decided to shoot higher. The third-year fashion design student chose a queen.

Her design, titled 'Royal Seduction' was based on Marie Antoinette, the infamous queen of France.

And it was good enough to win her second place in the competition.

Miss Wong's take on the royal's look saw her using nude colours and thin material to suggest innocence and sensuality.

To further convey that sweetness, her underwear was double-layered, comprising a low-cut under layer as well as high-cut upper piece, adding to the 'see through, yet covered-up look'.

To top it off, she cut out lace flowers - that reflected her icon's love for gardening - and sewed them onto her pieces.

Miss Wong, 19, said she found balancing aesthetics and practicality a challenge.

The designer, who will be launching her unisex line Skins 'N' Bones next year, explained: 'Because it's a commercial design, you have got to make sure it's marketable, but at the same time, you have to try to make sure your entry is creative and memorable.'


Amelia Earhart was his inspiration

WHEN it comes to designing bras, Mr Reinard Grevin had a natural disadvantage.

Being a man, he had never worn one before.

Nevertheless, he did his research on the various bra types and based his design on what he found appealing on women.

His hard work paid off when he clinched third place in the competition.

His creation was based on Amelia Earhart, the American aviation pioneer.

He said: 'I picked Amelia because to me she was one of the first women to step out of her comfort zone, daring to go out and do what was seen as a man's job at the time.'

Unlike the other two winners, he didn't pick material like jersey that was stretchable. Instead his fabric of choice was lightweight nappa leather.

That alone posed certain difficulties, he admitted.

The aspiring menswear designer, 20, said: 'You have to know how to cut leather so that it will stay on the body and not slide off.'

To add to the security of his undergarments, he incorporated eyelets and lacing that allowed for the adjustable piece to be worn on different body sizes, he said.


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This article was first published in The New Paper

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