Lisa Song, Whitecliffe

Talented designer, Lisa Song, received the Apparel Magazine award for Sustainable Practices and Handcraft Techniques at the Whitecliffe Fashion Show for 2020. She showcased her AW21 collection named Synepeia which was inspired by Greek mythology. 

Synepeia AW21

“Synepeia, which means consequences in Greek, reflects my concern with how modern humans need to face the consequences of their actions and the impact this has on our living/lived environment. 

The first of the Greek myths that inspired this collection is the story of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun despite being warned not to do so and therefore falling to his death when his wings melted. This is a story about willful ignorance. The story directly relates to the sun, speaks loudly of global warming and the lack of action taken by industries to curb the practices that contribute to heating the planet. 

Hades, the god of the underworld, and Persephone; the goddess of vegetation and also a daughter of the goddess of agriculture, speak to the origin of the cycle of seasons and the delicate balance between the underworld and the overworld. Industrialisation and the depletion of natural resources threatens a permanent winter, where Hades’ underworld emerges to dominate and ultimately overcome the overworld, resulting in devastating consequences. 

Phaethon disobeyed his father’s warnings when driving the sun chariot by using the whip on the horses, causing them to run amok and fall to the ground, burning and destroying the crops and villages all around. The willfulness of Phaethon is reflected in our human drive to push on, despite the warnings offered by nature, that ultimately we are intertwined, and if we destroy nature we ultimately will be destroyed as well. 

These ideas are shown through the appearance of the garments where smocking and gathering are tightened and relaxed throughout the design. Asymmetries are introduced into the designs to remind of imbalance and its possible discomforts. When allowed to flow between each other in a balanced way, opposing forces sustain creativity.

As a designer, when I try to control things too tightly, the creative process becomes restricted and this parallels the way in which humans have asserted total control over the natural world. The collection is made of biodegradable fibres and is highly crafted using the mindful practices of hand sewing and hand dyeing with natural materials to provide time for reflection, creating garments that are long-lasting and cherished. The gold and olive colour fabrics were hand-dyed by myself with onion skins.”

About Lisa…

Lisa was born in Seoul, Korea. She spent her childhood in two different countries, New Zealand and Korea, moving to one another every couple of years. Her parents took her on their oversea travels since they believed the power of seeing and experiencing other cultures and people was important. 

Spending her childhood in different countries gave her the experiences of different environments and the ability to be open-minded. 

The inspiration behind Synepeia sparked from her visit to Greece and her memory of reading Greek mythology when she was younger. 

“I was always into something visual, quite obsessive with little things and liked to build a meaningful relationship with objects. Having another dimension of encounter with everyday things helped me develop my artistic aesthetics,” explained Song. 

For Song, fashion was more about the materiality than the architecture. 

“I love seeing where the fabric and the materials take me, designing and working along with the materials rather than seeking for a set answer. The most important thing I have learnt through the fashion course is that every step of the process is important, every experience is precious.”

Further, Song has learnt a lot about sustainability, and the impact of the fashion industry has on the environment, the future of us humans and how we can do our part to change the industry and the world. 

Song previously worked at Designer Wardrobe as a quality controller. Her job was to quality check and repair garments when needed. This allowed her to come up with creative solutions to fix pieces with limited resources and time, whilst also allowing her to learn more about retail customers and their needs. 

“The biggest challenge I see in the fashion industry for me now is starting up a brand with no connections but just with passion and love for fashion. However, I believe the opportunities come when I’m doing everything that I can, catching every small opportunity of experience. Volunteering, unpaid interning, watching shows, seeing as many things as possible.”

Song’s plan after she graduates is to launch her own brand and to run her own business so she can express her artistic self. Song has already begun the first steps of launching her label; CYLÉE (pronounced seelay, a combination of her parent’s initials). 

The vision for CYLÉE is that it will focus on slow fashion and will only use organic and natural-fibre fabrics. Further, it will celebrate the free and boho vibe, whilst incorporating elegant designs. 

Song plans to take her creations online, starting with one-off garments made by hand. 

Photography by Michael Ng. 

With thanks to Vanity Walk Models, Red Eleven Model Management and Bintang Models and Management.