Singaporean fashion designer Max Tan is a resilient creative voice in fashion. He’s spent nine years turning out collections, even clinching awards thanks to his clothing patterning skills and craftsmanship — an impressive feat as our city is a notoriously tough market to sustain a fashion business.

There’s no better person to kick off The Archive, our new regular column where we uncover and showcase a select independent fashion designer’s body of work. The aim? To scratch past the surface and unveil the brand’s many facets through its collections as it evolves each season.

Here, we dive deep into Max.Tan’s archives starting from 2010 when the label launched. These are modelled by his long time muse, Luth Seah who has fronted most the label’s campaigns.

Spring Summer 2010 – Cape shirt dress
Max.Tan cape shirt dress, spring summer 2010
Max.Tan cape shirt dress, spring summer 2010 (Photo credit: David Goh)

We kick off with the cape shirt dress — the Max.Tan label’s equivalent of Chanel‘s little black dress. This number was part of the brand’s first spring summer 2010 collection. It is the epitome of balance between masculinity and femininity — a symbol of the brand’s genderless aesthetic.

Fall Winter 2010 – Nun dress

The cape shirt dress was followed up the next season by the nun dress. As its name suggests, it’s modest yet poised. One highlight of this tailored shirt dress is its interlinked cuffs that shape a complete loop from wrist to wrist.

Spring Summer 2011 – Tissue box dress
Max.Tan tissue box dress, spring summer 2011 (Photo credit: David Goh)
Max.Tan tissue box dress, spring summer 2011 (Photo credit: David Goh)

The next year, Max Tan introduced perforated neoprene into his line with the tissue box dress — a pivotal point in the brand’s construction and approach towards sculptural shapes. It is assembled with several neoprene panels and the jagged edges of the dress hems point outward, defying gravity.

Spring Summer 2013 – Crushed silk top
Max.Tan silk top, spring summer 2013 (Photo credit: David Goh)
Max.Tan silk top, spring summer 2013 (Photo credit: David Goh)

In 2013, Tan took a different route, breaking away from the crisp layers of past collections. Tan gave the buttoned vest a new twist by constructing it with flowy crushed silk instead. The introduction of the lustrous material in his collection refreshed the DNA of his brand’s take on androgyny.

Spring Summer 2014 – Asymmetrical jersey top
Fall Winter 2014 – Quilted circular skirt
Max.Tan asymmetrical top, spring summer 2014 and circular skirt, fall winter 2014 (Photo credit: David Goh)
Max.Tan asymmetrical top, spring summer 2014 and circular skirt, fall winter 2014 (Photo credit: David Goh)

Asymmetry is another of the brand’s trademarks. The classic shirt was reworked into a softly draped jersey with a sliced off sleeve and in a looser fit. As an intended design, the circular skirt that’s paired with the top features patched quilted panels with mismatched fabric grains.

Fall Winter 2015 – Draped wool top and pants

One key feature of the brand is the manipulation of clothing proportions. The oversized clothing style aims for a genderless outlook while giving the illusion of an empowering stature and almost a sense of protection to the wearer almost.

Fall Winter 2016 – Mesh trench coat
Max.Tan mesh trench coat, fall winter 2016 (Photo credit: David Goh)
Max.Tan mesh trench coat, fall winter 2016 (Photo credit: David Goh)

When the brand moved to softer materials, it used lightweight mesh tulle to recreate a classic trench coat. The fabric’s sheer billowy mesh renders the construction a shroud of mystery resembling a ghostly silhouette.

Fall Winter 2017 / 2018 – Geometric top and handkerchief skirt
Max.Tan geometric top and handkerchief skirt, fall winter 2017-2018 (Photo credit: David Goh)
Max.Tan geometric top and handkerchief skirt, fall winter 2017-2018 (Photo credit: David Goh)

By now, Tan has been serving up disruptive monochromatic fashion collections. The designer nails each season with consistently genderless silhouettes featuring bold geometrical patterns in sizeable contours. Additionally, the display of depth and layering through the clothing folds of this look are part of brand’s evolution in construction.

Fall Winter 2017 / 2018 – Coat dress
Max.Tan coat dress, fall winter 2017 (Photo credit: David Goh)
Max.Tan coat dress, fall winter 2017 (Photo credit: David Goh)

As the Max.Tan label continues to seek balance between the light and dark tones in its clothing, the attention shifts on the minutiae. Despite its overarching monochrome aesthetic, no last detail is overlooked from the placement of buttons to the panels of the garment.

 

 

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A monumental moment for the brand

An unparalleled achievement was when model Carmen Dell’Orefice strutted down the finale of his spring summer 2015 show in his favourite fuchsia coloured coat that he specially designed for her. Dell’Orefice who is now 87 years old, got on the cover of Vogue at age 15 — a remarkable accomplishment for her age then. She is not only known in the fashion industry for being the world’s oldest working model but was also painter Salvador Dali’s muse. Till date, Tan counts this opportunity to work with the legendary figure as one of the most memorable moments in his career.

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Photography by David Goh

Styling by Josiah Chua

Styling assisted by Misato Kato

Hair and Makeup by Joseph Ng

Modelled by Luth Seah

max-tan.com

Josiah Chua
Fashion Director
Josiah is the Fashion Director in charge of styling shoots and writing the fashion pages. On his days off, he locks himself at home designing and sewing up a collection in preparation for his label's runway debut.