“Chamomiles symbolise ‘strength in adversity’, which is an underlying message in all my collections,” says designer Edie Chung.
The name “Friesenguys” may sound vaguely European, but it’s really a last minute portmanteau thought up by designer Edie Chung the night before he sent his first set of lookbook images to the printers in 2018. Pronounced “free-zenn-guys”, it was inspired by Malaysian designer’s favourite food, fries, and the target for his first collection: guys.
Since its inception in 2019, the KL-based brand is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. Not only has it earned a feature on emerging designer platform Not Just A Label, scored appointments with major department stores such as Vermeerist Beams and Wall Harajuku in Japan, it’s also procured stockists in both Malaysia (Isetan) and Singapore (Superfreak Boutique) – all this with just one sewing machinist on his team and every piece of garment produced in-house. It’s no mean feat considering the amount of detail and handiwork involved.
The androgynous label’s aesthetic comes from a philosophy of designing in reverse: creating menswear from womenswear – taking traditionally feminine materials and combining them with masculine cuts that are comfy and easy to wear
1. Checkered cotton dress shirt, $368
2. Rainbow skate jacket, $488, Lighthouse cotton T-shirt, $89, lace cap, $89, and high-waisted pants, $318
Says the 28-year-old: “Instead of just having womenswear thrown on a male model and packaged as ‘androgynous’, I wanted a more considered approach when exploring androgyny. That also involved turning to my identity as a Malaysian – I envisioned turning Malay sampin into skirts, and the Indian sari for men.”
This translates into clothes that are quirky yet wearable, think floral embroidery on a suit, or a metallic lace veil on a baseball cap. Edie says he’s been drawn towards unusual fabric combinations and clashing prints since his days as a fashion design student at Raffles Design Institute in Singapore. Though he dropped out and went on to do a degree in English literature and drama (2014) instead, Edie never lost his love for fashion and came back to it in 2018.
“I always combine things that don’t seem to work, since there was nobody to tell me otherwise,” he says. “I used polycotton granny florals when it wasn’t cool yet, layering it over graphic check and floral lace – it sounds confusing, but it’s become a signature.”
3. Peter linen and silk jacket, $1,568, Lighthouse cotton T-shirt, $258, and Abigail cotton skirt, $388
Edie’s favourite piece: “This blazer with a hand-embroidered floral lapel, as I built the entire SS ’20 collection around this piece. Made of green Italian linen and lined with red silk habotai, the colours are a reference to Peter Pan. I love the masculine streamlined tailoring with blown-up proportions.”
4. Floral cotton shirt, $268
In his designs, Edie (pictured below) consistently integrates hand embroidery that employs the textile manipulation technique, which uses bits of fabric to make embellishments for a light 3-D effect. Edie believes this craftsmanship is what elevates his pieces and gives them a couture element.
For SS ’20, his muse was the iconic J.M. Barrie character Peter Pan. Edie says he was inspired by his “androgynous vibe”. “He’s a boy, mischievous and all, but has the powers of a fairy. There’s a sense of freedom and naivete that I think we need now more than ever,” he says.
While the label’s future looks promising, Edie decided to skip the FW ’20 collection due to limited access to resources during the pandemic. Instead, he’s exploring areas such as sustainability, and developing more entry-level pieces like tees for this “in-between” season.
With his eye set on growing the label and having his designs stocked in more boutiques, Edie has big dreams: “I’d like to have my own team, a proper studio and atelier with the right equipment to produce samples and handle some production.” – VALERIE WONG
From $73 for accessories to $1,568 for a jacket, available at Superfreak Boutique (#02-18 Orchardgateway), and online at Friesenguys.com.