The Fashion Designer Who Paints & Sews

Talk about being hands-on: Malaysian Cassey Gan prefers to create her own prints and sew all samples herself


Cassey Gan showed her Series 6 collection on the runway for the first time at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week on 12 August. It took her two months to design the Japanese-inspired collection, but when ELLE Malaysia visited her studio before the show, there was not a sketch of the designs in sight. In fact, Cassey hardly ever sketches while designing, preferring to go straight to the drawing board. She sews all the samples herself and has her seamstress, Xin Yi – busy at her sewing machine while we spoke – duplicate her designs.

“I don’t develop a whole collection together, but I’ll go back to my inspiration and photos and roughly draw out something I have in mind, and that leads to my second dress. And then from there, I go onto my third, fourth, fifth...” she said as she flipped through the Series 6 pieces hanging on a rack in her Taman Desa studio.

“There are a lot of diagonal lines. I was also looking at [Japanese women] who were working during WWI, so they had aprons and a lot of outer layers, which are loose and that’s kind of what I do. The stripes in some of my pieces, they’re like slashes, saying ‘No’ to war. There’s also a lot of flaps and wrapping and gathering, basically.”

Her pieces may look like they’re heavy on layering, but are not really.

“My pieces are all quite flat, actually, I realise,” Cassey said. “But it’s about different textures.”

Cassey also revealed the emotional idea behind the abstract screenprint on select pieces.

“I saw this quote, ‘This too shall pass’, and I thought oh okay, that’s quite nice,” she recalled. “I was attracted to very old walls and the paint is peeling off and then you see the many layers of different colours on the wall. That kind of tied into my ‘This too shall pass’ concept because, whether you’re happy or sad – it’s just a phase and then it will pass. I started painting based on that inspiration.”

Cassey showed us the acrylic paintings she did herself, which she turned into the print seen on select pieces in her new collection. Lots of rolling, scraping and sponging was involved to create a texture that mimics the look of old walls. 

As a growing brand herself, Cassey is aware of how important celebrity endorsement is for small local fashion brands. 

“I got to celebrities through stylists, who are very supportive of local designers nowadays. They will try to push local designer clothing to celebrities when styling them,” she said. “With [Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week] – we've never had that before, but now we do – that’s a good platform for young designers to show what they have. For us to do a show ourselves, how much money do we have to have to do something like that?” 

Cassey has never walked past anyone in Kuala Lumpur wearing her designs, but she has in Singapore.

“They don't know me!” she gushed when we asked if they recognised her. “Which is fine. I feel really happy and seeing people wear my designs makes me feel like it's worth it.”

Cassey Gan’s Series 6 collection can be pre-ordered on and is available to shop at now.

Photos: Hizwan Hamid

This article was originally published on Check out ELLE Malaysia's full coverage of KLFW here and coverage of Cassey Gan’s KLFW 2015 show here. Kuala Lumpur’s annual KL Fashion Week Ready-To-Wear runs from 12 to 16 August.

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