Anatomy of a Dress

Interview by Luo Jingmei
Photography by Jovian Lim

Five years ago, Letitia Phay and Jade Swee launched their fashion label Time Taken to Make a Dress (TTMD), with a focus on making garments that stemmed from the artistry of dressmaking. Conceived with a conceptual rigor and a boldness to experiment with texture, fabrics, details, patterns, geometry, form and technique, they redefined the way a garment can wrap, embellish and structure the female form.

Their methods have attracted a bevy of like-minded customers—bold, spirited women who encourage the duo to push the boundaries of their craft in constructing their ideal gowns, pieces of art created over hours of labourious hand sewing and which transform the wearer into more ethereal, confident versions of themselves.

TTMD has worked on several collections that its creators use as a base for testing out personal obsessions, but it is their customisation service that has driven the atelier, requests by clients for weddings, stage moments or simply for the desire to own a bespoke piece of wearable sculpture. With Jade recently having given birth and taking a break from the atelier, we find out from Letitia about TTMD’s direction at this point of its creative journey.

Time Taken to Make a Dress anatomy of a dress

Hi Letitia, how did you and Jade get into the world of fashion design and what led the both of you into this creative partnership?

Jade was trained at Temasek Polytechnic, I was self taught. We both met in the bridal industry, after which I took a year off last year after starting TTMD to focus on cutting and sewing at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo.

Fashion designers, dressmakers, artisans—how would you choose to define yourselves?

It’s limiting to just pick one label; we are all of the above, sometimes one more than the other depending on the project.

Time Taken to Make a Dress anatomy of a dress

TTMD was formed out of friendship. Can you tell us how this defines your working relationship?

We started TTMD because we love the process of creating a dress; money was never part of the motivation, which often complicates most partnerships. Our priorities was always and still is friendship first, everything else after. That means knowing each others’ thoughts without needing to speak, which made designing and making decisions together easy. Most of the time it feels like marriage, where you vow to love each other no matter what happens.

Time Taken to Make a Dress anatomy of a dress

Your first collection in 2010, titled ‘Of Veil Skin and Bone’, featured 11 dresses experimenting with translucency, structure and form. Would you say this collection set the artistic direction for TTMD’s future approach?

I guess it does because the collection was very true to how we felt and what we wanted to say. We will always chase for something different and new but the honesty will always stay. As with all our collections, it’s always about what we felt like doing at that moment. That first collection was about the parallels between a dress and the human body. For example, there were ‘bones’ in our dresses like how there are bones in the human body, both with the purpose of support, giving a foundation to the outer, softer material.

Read more in The U Press N˚9 (Singapore edition).