The jet-setting Malan Breton shocked the fashion world when he announced he wouldn’t be at New York Fashion Week this season and would only debut the new collection during London Fashion Week at Fashion Scout.
Malan Breton is a Fashion Scout regular; one of the many stunning designers that grace the catwalk in the storied chambers of London’s Freemasons’ Hall, but it was a surprise that it wouldn’t be a trans-national debut.
When the opportunity came up to interview the Taiwan-born designer about his choices this season and his career, I leapt at the chance. Malan Breton has been at the front of the explosion of talent emerging from the island I’ve just returned from (read my piece on Taiwan here) and I wanted to know more.
With London Fashion Week just around the corner you’ve chosen to make a change and just show in London exclusively this season, what made you decide to move away from New York?
I love New York Fashion Week, I had my first shows there at Bryant Park after I launched my brand. It saddens me to see how the changes in the world have affected this brilliant city. I feel like the energy in London is so much more focused to buyers, consumers and the fashion industry. I feel like the NYC shows have become inundated with a lot of people who really are not there to push the industry forward.
Malan Breton collections are noted for their exuberant glamour and creativity; has that made London more attractive? London does have an increasing reputation as the most creative of the main fashion weeks.
I am so inspired by London, I spent the entire summer researching the 1920s in London, a time that gave Hollywood some of its greatest stars and most creative geniuses in film, especially Chaplin. I love that in London there is a beautiful fusion of glamour, creativity, and humanity. This inspires me.
Menswear is trying to find its place in the fashion calendar, and in some places has been more successful as standalone fashion weeks than others; you’ve always shown your men's and women's collections together; do you see a time when you may consider splitting them?
We started showing co-ed shows every season in 2009. Everyone said you have to break it up, people do not like the mix. Then five years later everyone is doing co-ed shows. I love it. I love how fashion for men and women play off of each other. I love that there is so much gender neutrality as well, as I design for all.
As an international designer you get to spend time in New York and London; what is your top tip for each city, the one thing our readers should do if they’re in either city?
If you’re in NYC you will find yourself enthralled by culture, theatre and the arts. I love Broadway and I love the underground art scene, there is so much great new talent coming up in it. If you are in London, there are the social events, the nightlife, the incredible fusion of cultures, the history, the ceremony, the countryside… I love Windsor; I was there this past summer for an event and have been back a number of times. I think in NYC you find your inner chaos, and in London you find your inner calm.
I’ve just come back from Taiwan and I’m currently setting up an in-depth look at menswear there. As someone on the vanguard of the island’s fashion creatives and having made a documentary about the country, what do you think is driving the explosion in designers the nation is seeing?
Taiwan is a country that is very young, yet has the tradition of the old. That being said, there is a real desire for expression in colourful, boundless ways, to give men functional options that stay with tradition. Taiwan is a place I call my technicolour dreamland. I am so grateful to have been exposed to the eastern and western culture growing up; it taught me that anything is possible.
While in Taiwan you advised me to try shaved ice, which is your favourite flavour?
[Laughs] I love the shaved ice with lychee and red bean. I love to go to night market and find the ladies who make it with fresh fruit.
With a business that includes menswear, womenswear, accessories and much more sold across the web and in physical stores you must be incredibly busy, but in those rare moments away from the studio and office, how do you like to relax?
I love to write, I love to sing, I dance, do yoga and find myself enthralled in silent film of the 1920s.
What’s on the stereo in your studio?
Jolin Tsai, Ariana Grande, Chopin, and I discovered this Australian singer recently whose voice is so godlike her name is Karise Eden. But I also love Nat King Cole, and always the old MGM movie soundtracks.
You famously didn’t attend design school, instead moving into design after modelling and styling, then into working with industry icon Arnold Scaasi, and iconic menswear label Turnbull & Asser; how do you think that has inflected into the way you work?
I do not design in a box the way others do, I was always taught to look outside the box and share my knowledge. Scaasi always taught me there was enough in the world for everyone, so, I try to give back as much as possible. I also do everything with heart, because I want everyone to feel beautiful from the inside out. So, each collection to me is a journey, a story that can touch one's soul.
We always see you looking amazing; does Malan Breton ever have a jeans and T-shirt day?
You are so kind. My go-to incognito look is my McQueen Trainers, my jeans and my polo shirts from last season, and a silk coloured bomber with a baseball cap. But generally, when I am in the public eye, I wear a suit. Grandmother always taught me to dress well out of respect to myself and others. That stuck with me all these years.
Alongside the fashion business, directing, presenting and costume design, you’ve been involved with blockchain technology; what made you become one of the first to directly embrace the technology within the industry?
I was introduced to the blockchain phenomenon by my friend Consuelo Vanderbilt who owns the Soho Muse Platform. It’s an incredible new realm of possibility. I have always looked for new ways of expansion and this seems to be the most advanced platform at this time. I cannot wait for you to see what we are launching with fashion week.
And of course, we have to ask, any hints on what we’ll see at London Fashion Week the spring/summer 2019 Malan Breton collection?
The collection is top secret, but I will tell you it’s inspired by one of the greatest theatrical producers in history…
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