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4th June 2017 / TFCS Mentor Spotlight / by Chia Sihan

Clara Yee:
Striding into the age of collaboration

How does it feel to have your works featured in leading publications such as The Rolling Stones (Mexico), Ming Pao Daily (HongKong) and DigitalArts (UK) to name a few, all before your 30th birthday?

Clara's work for Warner Music

I find the process of collaborating in a team that works well together, supports each other and respect each other’s skills, whilst simultaneously driving towards a desire to improve or explore beyond boundaries is an incredibly rewarding experience.

“I’ve always drawn before I could spell properly. Actually spelling is my worse nightmare,” says multi-disciplinary designer Clara Yee, who was a DesignSingapore Council scholar and named on Forbes Asia’s 2016 List of 30 Under 30. An undeniable spark among Singapore’s rising creative talent, this TFCS Art Mentor’s career began even before she graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2012.

Clara’s 1st drawing was of bright-eyed girls scrubbing their faces clean for a Johnson & Johnson national advertisement when studying at Cedar Girls’ Secondary School. It’s not surprising then that drawing naturally became a key mode of communication for Clara. “It’s both with myself and with others, and to observe my surroundings and events in my daily life through drawing – people whom I’ve met, talked to, conversations overheard, even a cool breeze. That experience and vocabulary is the core of what informs my design work. I strongly believe that you may be schooled in techniques, but you have to design from life,” she reflects. 

Having exhibited in Mexico City, London and Taiwan, Clara also worked with the Singapore Tourism Board on an experiential traveling art and design showcase Singapore: Inside Out that toured Beijing, London, New York and Singapore. She was also the artistic director of art-and-culture event Pasar Singapura: The Bazaar, part of Spotlight Singapore’s showcase in Mexico City, an entrepreneurship event organised by Global Cultural Alliance, which took place in the Mexican capital in March this year.

The excitement of globetrotting aside, when it comes to setting up her base, Clara’s heart returns to where home is. After returning to Singapore, she joined multi-disciplinary architecture studio Zarch Collaboratives as a creative designer, before starting her own studio at the end of 2013. She shares with TFCS on her journey thus far, and some tips on how newcomers can navigate their own creative paths.

TFCS: You’ve collaborated with quite a few established brands, from Alexander McQueen to Warner Music to STB. How did these partnerships come about? 

Clara: Through people! I’ve been really fortunate to work with amazing people who believed in me and my potential for which I am very thankful. For Singapore: Inside Out, Randy Chan from Zarch Collaboratives invited me to pitch for the project with him and the rest is history.

TFCS: Could you share with us your creative process in experiential design? 

Clara: I’m definitely a thinker, so I go through a lot of questioning and analysing and then having to suspend that side of me whilst I sketch and design because sometimes creation is not a logical language. Depending on the time allowed, it’s usually bouncing between those two states and zooming between meta and micro view.

TFCS: You have worked at and with established brands before starting your own company. Which aspects of both arrangements do you enjoy and dislike the most? 

Clara: Established brands attract very talented people so those are the places where I’ve met and remained friends with some of the most skilful and intelligent designers. A lot of them went on to start their own labels or companies. I did find it paradoxical that the strong sense of a particular aesthetic that built a brand is also what makes it difficult for an individual to stay for long if you are also driven to express something else. But sometimes I find comfort in surrendering control to a larger company’s directive. It’s the obedient side in me 😉

TFCS: Tell us about your favourite piece of work or clients. 

Clara: I actually really liked working on the Chinoiserie mural. It was just very simple and intimate piece, and I was holed up for a week in a snowed-in estate in Wales. The commissioner was an intelligent man, full of life stories to share.

TFCS: Any brand or personality that you would you like to work with? 

Clara: Plenty! I’d always love to work again with my long-term collaborator and independent creative producer Mok Cui Yin again, I’ve always been curious about Ma Ke’s philosophy, and brands like Outlaw Moscow, Jon Max Goh and agencies like KK and Troika.

TFCS: Some words of advice for someone who’s looking to break into the industry? 

Clara: Don’t do it alone. Reach out to people, work with others, support each other. Unless your game plan is world domination through pure selfish evil (laughs). Keep an open heart and open mind. You need an open mind to learn and expand your own knowledge not just of the job, but life in general. You need an open heart to develop wisdom from the knowledge and grow your own kindness and courage in the face of what can be a very tough industry and difficult times.

Chinoiserie

You need an open heart to develop wisdom from the knowledge and grow your own kindness and courage in the face of what can be a very tough industry and difficult times. 

Photos: TFCS Art Mentor Clara Yee

Follow Clara on Instagram @clara_yee and check out more of her work @TheFashionCollectiveSG. Check out Clara’s portfolio here. Keen to come on board and start building your portfolio, or interested in collaborating with us? Get in touch at letsrock@thefashioncollective.com.sg.

About the Writer

Chia Sihan

A story junkie by nature, this TFCS scribe thrives on uncovering the backstories of her interview subjects, whether they are heads of corporations or a working Mum caring for a child with a developmental disorder. She finds it a privilege to be privy to these personal experiences. Some of the publications she has written for include the Singapore Women’s Weekly, L’Officiel Singapore, and Harper’s Bazaar Junior. It is this genuine love for storytelling and collaboration that led her to kickstart her journey as a co-founder of The Fashion Collective Singapore. Now the chief storyteller at TFCS, she is particularly inspired by the personal journeys of TFCS Mentors, not to mention their dedication towards the refinement of their craft.

Head over to The Editor’s Journal to read articles contributed by Sihan.

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