From Beams to Seams – Maricel Pamintuan

Maricel Pamintuan, a final year Fashion Design student at the Winchester School of Art, takes time off to talk to The Brunei Times’ FAIQ AIRUDIN about her two-month full-time internship at Marchesa, a designer boutique label, in New York and her aspirations to see fashion designed-and-made in Brunei make a breakthrough in the regional market.

FASHION can seem effortless, throw on apart of trousers and then you are able to face the world. But have you ever thought about the person who has to design the look of the trousers, pick out the colour, figure out the best place to put the pockets and decide its overall look. That person is a fashion designer.

In a Skype interview with The Brunei Times, Maricel Pamintuan (pictured right) ,a budding fashion designer in her final year of Fashion Design in Winchester School of Art in the United Kingdom, shares her experiences and her transition from architecture into fashion. When she was a student at Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah College (Maktab Duli), she was awarded the Cam-bridge Brilliance Awards (2008 &2009) for top results in GCE ‘AS’ and ‘A’ Level Art and Design, and went to the UK to study architecture but quickly realised it wasn’t for her.

‘‘I found that architecture was too technical since everything had to be rigid and accurate. I felt that it really hindered my own creative freedom and ability to create.’’ She turned to fashion instead. ‘‘It came to me as a surprise’’.

Her parents were uncertain about this path. ‘‘They didn’t think the government would actually grant me a scholarship, so they were very doubtful they would allow me to switch to fashion.’’ They did and she is the only fashion student under the Ministry of Education scholarship pursuing fashion design at university level. She started without any basic knowledge of sewing but that quickly changed as she learnt how to sew.

‘‘They teach some skills but it is basically very independent study.’’ In the summer of 2012, after completing her second year she hopped on a plane to New York City. From the recommendation of her tutor she did a two-month full-time internship at Marchesa, a designer boutique label which sells dresses from US$2,500 (around$3,128) to US$8,000 to red carpet celebrities.

‘‘Living in New York was an amazing experience and it really opened my eyes to how competitive and tough the fashion industry is in general.’’ She had to settle in the city herself taking residence in the iconic East Village, using the bus to get to the Marchesa studio. During her internship she did simple errands like collecting fabric and sending things off for production. She also did sketches for prints to be used for home decor for their Marchesa by Lennox line. During the Marchesa Spring Summer 13 collection at the New York Fashion Week 2012 she was busy helping back-stage.

‘‘About two weeks before the show we did a lot of hand embroidery on the dresses for the show, and that was fun. It was very hands on.’’ Her time in New York gave her a first hand glimpse of how designers operate and how a collection is created professionally from concept drawings to wearable garments.

She took this experience as the basis for her own collection for her end-of-year assessment. ‘‘The emerging designer shared the steps before the dresses made it to the catwalk. She first has to come up with a concept and then do research on it relying on visual aids. From there she designs and then create toiles which are the prototypes for dresses, ’’ said Maricel.

The title for her collection was ‘‘Wabi-Sabi’’, aJapanese word for seeing beauty in imperfection. She drew her inspiration from geometry since it is symbolic of per-fection and high speed photography. ‘‘

I created my collection to make people think not just to do something pretty. I want them to wonder how I get the idea for the design.’’ Maricel’s ‘‘Wabi-Sabi’’ collection is a mixture of technical fabrics and natural fabrics, utilising neoprene asynthetic fabric usually associated with scuba diving suits.

There is a perception that fashion is easy. ‘‘Most people I talked to has a very flat view of fashion. They think fashion designing is all about drawings on pieces of paper. But it is really a tiring process.’’

In Brunei she knows of traditional boutiques that specialise in traditional Malay dresses. ‘‘If you are designing something more traditional you always have to keep a cultural feel to it,’’ she said. ‘‘For fashion in the country to flourish there needs to be an emphasis on clothing lines designed and owned by Bruneians themselves, with less reliance on imported goods.’’

‘‘I also feel that the younger generation in Brunei is growing more passionate about fashion, thanks to the Internet, fashion blogs and exposure in studying abroad.’’ Maricel is hopeful about the future of design in the country.

Brunei is able to compete in terms of manufacturing costs and the quality of production. ‘‘I feel that Brunei has the potential to be a hub where designer labels can have the option of manufacturing their ready-to-wear garments.’’ The journey has only begun for her. ‘‘I’m keen in designing wearable garments in the future, as I’d love to launch my own line one day. However, I would like my garments to have some traces of conceptual elements to them.’’

[First Published 16 June, 2013]