Revolutionary of the Month
Meet emerging designer and our Revolutionary of the Month, Brian Yambao. Take a sneak peek with us into his exciting fashion label Maelstrom. Jacqui Miholos chatted with Brian about his journey to fashion, inspirations and his ‘In Search of her Tribe’ graduate collection.
Tell us about your journey to fashion.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been interested in fashion but I never really thought I would have the opportunity to study fashion because my parents didn’t think it was a viable career path. They envisioned a more traditional career for me so I started out studying computer engineering at university, but my heart wasn’t really in it. So I dabbled in interior design and then moved on to graphic design after which I worked as a designer. Moving to Adelaide, I heard about the Bachelor of Creative Arts (Fashion) at Flinders University and TAFE SA and enrolled.
How did you decide on the name Maelstrom for your label?
When I was a kid I read this story by one of my favourite authors Edgar Allan Poe, ‘Decent into the Maelstrom’. I thought the word Maelstrom was interesting but I didn’t know what it meant so I looked it up, it means a ‘powerful whirlpool’. I’ve always been fascinated with the word because it’s so unusual, sounds different and has a cool meaning. Maelstrom stuck with me; I thought it would be a great name for a label because I’m always interested in things that you wouldn’t think would usually go together but then you make it work. I like there to be a push and pull of things; two different sides that generate friction to create something new. I thought that idea was very powerful for a label.
What or who are you inspired by when designing?
I take inspiration from anything and everything. It could be a certain image that I see, an emotion, idea, thought or even gesture. I’m interested in a lot of film costume and other areas of design coming from my graphic design background. I also love architecture, art, nature, photography and people. Creative practitioners are constantly observing, absorbing and digesting the environment around them. I think it’s important to always be open to stimulus and to always be curious and interested in many different things. It also helps to be introspective sometimes as well. I try to design coming from that space.
What’s your favourite part about being a fashion designer?
The whole process. I’m very tactile, I love texture and textiles, and I love the act of creating. I enjoy working ideas through from conception to the design process, creating the design and finally seeing it in real life. That’s the best thing about designing. When I saw my designs at the TAFE SA student showcase at the Adelaide Fashion Festival, it was such a thrill for me to see someone wearing my gowns down the runway and for everyone to see my work and say ‘oh, I’d like to wear that’. It’s such a huge compliment to me when other people appreciate my designs.
How would you describe your style in designing and your personal street style?
When I design, I try to have a story or a meaning behind what I’m doing. I like to have a concept and subtext in my work. The three main things that I like to achieve in my designs would be to create a certain elegance, with a touch of unexpectedness and a bit of drama. For my personal style, I’m currently rocking the poor university student look at the moment. My go to style is relaxed, clean and classic. My designs express a totally different character from my personal style. I see design as a fantasy, so I would design things that I wouldn’t necessarily imagine myself or even a female version of me to wear.
Tell us about your current graduate collection to be presented early next year.
My graduate collection is called ‘In Search of her Tribe’ and I’m attempting to portray a story through six looks. The story is about a lone survivor of a great upheaval or catastrophe. She goes on a journey to find her own kind, kindred spirits or her tribe. Through her journey, she has moments of self-discovery, and that transforms her. At the end she realises her potential and then becomes the best version of herself; she’s strong, resilient, and fabulous. I’ve taken the idea of the phoenix rising from the ashes telling a story through the clothes. The underlying concept is that when you go on a journey to search for things, inevitably you find yourself through that process.
The designs have an Asian and European influence, between traditional dress, traditional costume and classic haute couture. This collection is echoing the idea behind the label that there’s two different things pushing and pulling and creating something else. I’m hoping that come February 8th when we put on our runway show that it will be something beautiful that I’m proud to have designed alongside some incredible work that is being created by my amazing group of talented classmates.
What have you learned whilst studying Fashion at TAFE SA?
The technical dressmaking skills have been so valuable. I had never actually sewn before the course so all of the pattern making and sewing was a huge lesson for me. I do like to make things with my hands so it’s been fantastic to be able to do that. To bring designs to life rather than just think about them and draw them on paper.
What’s next after your Bachelor of Creative Arts (Fashion) at Flinders Uni and TAFE SA?
I want to pursue a career in the fashion industry and do fulfilling work where I feel stimulated and useful. During my work experience at Paolo Sebastian, I had a glimpse at what working in the industry entails. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to help out with their lovely team in the studio and also backstage at their shows, particularly their most recent show, the ‘Once Upon a Dream’ collection at the Adelaide Fashion Festival. It was such a magical experience; I’d like to be able to do something like that for my label. During my time at Paolo Sebastian, we were all working on a collection that had really high expectations because people know the label and associate it with high standards. There is pressure in a way, but it also makes you do better work. Every year they do something better than the previous year. It was really quite an exciting experience!
What is your ultimate dream for yourself and Maelstrom?
For myself, I would love to have a very fulfilling fashion career. My ultimate dream is to work in a couture house like Dior, that would be so amazing. For my designs, if I could show at the Adelaide Fashion Festival or the Melbourne Fashion Festival that would be great and one day internationally would be incredible as well. I would just love to have my work appreciated by people and for them to actually want to wear my designs. At this stage, I’m not quite sure where I will take the label. I don’t feel that I am quite ready to take that step. I would love to get more experience first and then who knows what will happen in future!
Story: Jacqui Miholos