Not Your China Doll

4:05 PM

The whole concept behind this shoot is to tell the story of the fashion artefact, the cheongsam, in a new narrative. One that does not conform to the ideal purported image of the "cheongsam lady".

If we had to imagine someone in a cheongsam, the instinctive image would be that of an Asian beauty who is tall and slender. The mainstream media has managed to commodify and normalise the image of the cheongsam lady to that of a "China Doll" — a beauty who is a subservient, docile and demure all at once.

The art direction of this shoot is to challenge just that. By incorporating body art and other grungy elements alongside oriental props, we want to give the traditional Chinese garment a contemporary take. We collaborated with a local henna/jagua artist, See Min, who does illustrative temporary tattoos (@henn.drawn) and Fine Arts student, Raigo, to further challenge the "China Doll" image and notions of gender fluidity.

Models: Ng See Min & Raigo Law
Art Direction: Yau Yan Ting
Photographer: Mirabelle Koh
Styling: Tay Hui Mei
Set Designers: Michelle Yong & Diana Ong

Okay that's enough of marketing and selling. I can't help but take on that kind of tone when it comes to talking about project motivations. But for blogging's sake, a casual tone is better.

It's been months (we did this shoot in April) since the team and I completed the project but everyone's just so overwhelmed by the remaining assignments that we barely had time to celebrate it at all. I remember doing seven consecutive shoots (both for work and school) that one week, because you know, submissions and work deadlines always love to pile on all at once. Exhausting would be an understatement.

From loaning the cheongsams to emailing multiple venues for our shoot and sourcing for props, I swear I lost half my soul through this entire process. I mean, none of these art-direction-driven shoots were ever easy but this just takes the cake.
Who would have thought that finding a very Chinese-style location for our shoot would be that difficult? We emailed a couple of hotels, restaurants and bars but it was just so difficult to get replies and approvals. And the props you see in the pictures (ALL the lanterns, table cloth and even the yellow paper fan) were individually sourced. We lugged it all the way and back, together with luggages of clothes, equipment and everything else. Now, nobody knows what the hell to do with the huge-ass paper fan so it's currently sitting in my storeroom alongside every other prop, waiting for its chance to shine again.

That's a brief glimpse of the horrors that goes behind beautiful pictures. Welcome to the fashion media industry, I guess. If anything, I know the film industry is worse so... :')
When it all ended, a huge load was lifted off all of our shoulders. Still, I was glad for the opportunity to work with the models. It's definitely not something I've done before, so this was cool.

Yes, the rant is way overdue. But despite all my complaints, I still enjoyed every process of the shoot. Even in the most trying times when I question why I put myself through this torture... I still don't see myself doing anything but this. I'm glad I set out on this path, and I'm glad I have met many like-minded individuals who love putting themselves through the very same pain.

Anyway, this is but one of the projects I've worked on over the past couple of months. I realised that I have only been churning out travel posts after travel posts, so I thought to take a little breather with something a bit more personal. I have just been feeling a little lazy as of late, and travel posts take up way more time and materials to come up with. I just don't feel ready for that... But I don't want to compromise content just to get the post up faster so, I'll just update the space a little on my works for now.

The majority of this blog's web traffic do come from my past travel posts, so I do know that that's what my audience prefers to engage in. I'll get to my couchsurfing experience post soon!!

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