May Tan, 32
Profession : Fashion Designer
Element : Wood
Energy : May believes that she has a blend of wood and water characteristics. Born under the Wood element, she is strong willed, decisive and stubborn. Yet, like how the water in the river flows, she tends to rush into things and subsequently loses focus. Despite being a little lost on some occasions, May can adapt pretty well to various unexpected situations.
Also read : The Wind & The Water feat. Kelly Roza
THE FIRST TIME I heard the name of Maarimaia’s latest collection, I knew it could not have been a coincidence. By attending its launch party and personally witnessing its design motifs, my suspicion was confirmed: the founder of the independent contemporary womenswear label integrates the ancient practice of Feng Shui into her designs. “Bloc & Flo is a play of the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang. According to the Feng Shui theory, everything in our universe is composed of two opposing but deeply interconnected forces. And this is what I hope to achieve with this collection: to pair two contradictory elements into one harmonious creative work. Notably, this also reemphasises the core of Maarimaia’s creations: to pair functionality with handcrafted elements from the inception to the construction,” narrates May, noting that one cannot exist without the other, as in their seeming opposition, they deeply support and nourish each other. “I love the interaction between these two Feng Shui forces. And this is something I use to set the base of my creative energy.”
Have you ever felt gravitated towards a certain colour or thing? Well, it may or may not be Feng Shui, but it is most likely because your energy is lacking a particular element, thus pulling you towards that specific object.
Although I’ve heard of colours being used to create the essence of life around us, this is the first time I’ve actually witnessed someone applying the historical art to fashion. To simplify the expression, Yin (also known as the feminine energy) is associated with black, while Yang (the masculine energy) is linked to white. Energy-wise, Yin is soft, diffused, passive and silent. To aid visualisation, May asks me to think of the rhythm and the essence of the feminine energy. “Yin is the softness of the water, the mystery of the moon, the darkness of the rich, moist soil and the deep silence of the night. Yang, on the other hand, is the force opposite to Yin’s quality of energy. Imagine the fiery rays of the piercing sun, the aggressive speeds of motorcars, the rock-solid surface of a mountain and the focused energy of a laser beam.” As for Maarimaia, the brand is synonymous with confidence, independence, intelligence and complexity; all of which form the timeless beauty that transcends time, space and trends.
That being said, May is not one to blindly follow Feng Shui to a T. “Although I don’t see it as a fun concept to play with just for the kick, I don’t adhere to the concept religiously. It’s more of an instinctive thing and I only practise certain elements that fit my lifestyle. For example, as a person under the wood element, I need to wear something of the opposing element to harmonise my own Chi. The basic wood colours are brown, green and blue. If I am dressed in these colours too often, it will only intensify my wood characteristics. I will be harsher to others or be stuck in a position and refuse to move on,” she shares. And her solution to reach equilibrium is to introduce the metallic element. “Imagine it this way, to halve a piece of wood, you’ll need an axe. Thus, to balance out my stubbornness, I need to incorporate the metal element into my life,” she reveals, pointing out that according to the Feng Shui chart, she is to avoid wearing black. However, instead of omitting her favourite colour entirely, she prefers garments with circular patterns such as polka dots, as the curvy form belongs to the metal element. “Also, I would add a touch of metallic or pastel hues and jewellery to my black outfit.”
Although I don’t see it as a fun concept to play with just for the kick, I don’t adhere to the concept religiously. It’s more of an instinctive thing and I only practise certain elements that fit my lifestyle
In addition to that, May opines that whether a person believes in Feng Shui or otherwise, all of us do practise it subconsciously. “Have you ever felt gravitated towards a certain colour or thing? Well, it may or may not be Feng Shui, but it is most likely because your energy is lacking a particular element, thus pulling you towards that specific object.” Yet, looking at her design collections, I’d say that she has a good mix of offerings to meet any discerning clientele. “I try to cater to all five elements but honestly, there are so many things to think about that I have to say meeting every Feng Shui need is not at the top of Maarimaia’s priorities. For one, there are many areas that involve the Chinese zodiac and cultural traditions,” May replies, explaining that for her Lunar collection, she didn’t use black or white due to auspicious reasons nor did she fill it up with just red because not everyone is compatible with the colour. “That is why you see my qipaos are made in a variety of colours. In the end, I want each of my customers to be able to find something in my collection that suits them.”
One Feng Shui motif she tries to stay clear of in her designs is the animal. “Some people are sensitive when it comes to this. I once had a client who informed me that although she loved everything about that particular creation, she had to forgo it as the squiggly
pattern on it resembled a snake. After that incident, I try to minimise the usage of such motifs.” That being said, she has no plan to create a whole collection that caters to one type of element. “As a designer, there are many considerations to be taken when it comes to designing a holistic collection. I, myself, may be drawn to a colour, pattern, fit or structure. So I need to make sure that I stop myself from designing something that will end up just for myself,” she laughs.