Brenda Kuoh is a Ravensbourne Fashion Graduate, known for her intricate garment detailing and creative use of unconventional materials, turning them into wearable elegant womenswear. After gaining signiﬁcant experience at powerhouses Rejina Peo and Mary Katrantzou, Brenda’s launched her Graduate Collection in 2019, shaping the story of six women venturing on a heist. In light of her most recent feature in the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK, Fashion Crossover London sat down and spoke with the Malaysian Designer about all things fashion.
Originally from Malaysia, you moved to London and enrolled in Ravensbourne University, what inspired you to pursue a degree in Fashion design?
My father, he has always been my greatest inspiration both in life as well as in fashion. He was the son of a mechanic, destined to follow his in his father’s footsteps, but decided to go how own way and ventured into tailoring. He faced many adversities and pressure when pursuing his passion for fashion, I guess this rubbed off on me. I recall him telling me I should do I what I love, and wouldn’t have to work another day in my life.
"My father, he has always been my greatest inspiration both in life as well as in fashion."
What really stands out in your collection is the use of materials, ranging from mesh to pearls and rich embellishment, why did you choose such bold and tactile elements?
My main inspiration for my Graduate Collection was the Ocean’s 8 film. When comparing different heist films, you can distinguish a clear theme and the recurrence cable ties, and ropes used to tie up hostages, as well as duffle bags to store cash and jewellery and balaclavas to shroud the identity of the thieves. Fashion is such an expressive form of art, and I thought I’d fuse all these elements in my collection, with gems and jewels being staying at the core of my designs.
Your collection is a true example of effective storytelling, as you bring the idea of a fashionable heist to life, what inspired you to create a compelling storyline that accompanied your looks?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, an entire collection is a story of its own. Fashion shows are a form of entertainment, so I thought it’d be more interesting for the viewers if there were a plot and a theme to my collection. Both the materials and the techniques I used, tell a different story and add a personality to each look. Much like a team of professional thieves, each individual has a crucial role in their heist plan, through which they express their uniqueness, but the heist only succeeds if they all come together as one.
"Fashion shows are a form of entertainment, so I thought it’d be more interesting for the viewers if there were a plot and a theme to my collection"
Your collection is very feminine yet strong, as it combines delicate details with structured shapes, what lead you to this fusion?
I intentionally formed a more structured silhouette, as I have always been fascinated with menswear designs. My signature design style is very wearable, and I enjoy making simple looks that are sophisticated but not too “in your face”. The film I drew inspiration from portrays a strong feminist ideology, with the characters giving off strong alpha-vibes. To showcase their strong personalities, I opted for a clean-cut and boxy structure, yet I didn’t want to neglect the power of femininity and chose to highlight different features in each dress, and let these shine through.
What have you learnt from this collection that will influence your designs in the future?
Before starting on this collection, I had no experience in dealing with certain materials like beads and Swarovski crystals. There was a lot of trial and error, as I wanted to balance it just right between extraordinary and over-the-top. I also experimented with hand weaving my own fabric, this taught me the importance of being more environmentally friendly. I learnt to be bolder, get out of my comfort zone and push myself to make my concepts come to life.
"I learnt to be bolder, get out of my comfort zone and push myself to make my concepts come to life"
See Brenda Kuoh's full collection
Words by Lupe Baeyens