I first got to know Bremen Wong at the Art for Grabs a few years ago. At that time he was just breaking into the Malaysian creative scene with his elaborate and funky headgears. For the less flamboyant, he has zipper and leather off-cuts made into attractive hairbands. This was the time were hairbands were mainly 2-dimensional and boring. It is great to be the innovator and come up with one of a kind accessories like his hairbands and brooches which he elaborated sews one by one, pricking his fingers and injuring his hand trying to cut the many leather pieces. At one point it got so bad, he had to wear a sling.
He was making the bazaar rounds. Spending hours sitting and explaining his concept to 'may-be' customers. But many average Malaysians, being a conservative bunch could not bring themselves to wear his slightly more avant-garde designs for fear of being ridiculed by their office colleagues or family members. Where's the adventurous / fashionable spirit, people!
How did i come to this conclusion? I have visited Bremen at many of the bazaars he joined and i hear the same thing. The ladies would admire his work, but then dare not put their money where their desire lies. One working lady @a charity bazaar in Berjaya Times Square looked and looked & tried on the hairband for along time, wanting but not daring and eventually gave up and left. She was not confident enuff of her fashion sense. The piece she picked was creative, beautiful, not too outlandish, a bit outstanding but elegant. I tried to help by telling her to be bold and be the first to wear such a gem and that i myself have many of his hairbands & worn them to the office proudly. She gave me a weird look and decided otherwise. Her loss! Cos now, we see people wearing the most outlandish, a huge patch of labuci & sequins/lace on the side of their hairband in the name of being fashinable. Why now? Because u see it being sold everywhere. So now, because it's sold everywhere & mass produced (so cheaply priced) people dare to where it. A bunch of copy cats, have we become...?
This is the challenge of every crafter/designer - to make something unique (in the customer's perception) but yet similar to others so that the customer will not feel too different from the other.
Personally, i call this the 'Kiasi' syndrome. The Singaporeans have the unfortunate title of being 'kiasu' because they stand up for what they think/believe is right (eventhough sometimes they r not). They do not back down. On the positive side, this shows confidence and being proud of their conviction and daring to forge on and progress. The downside is of course a matter of ego, not wanting to give in, not wanting to lose. Being 'kiasi' means being afraid of doing something different / preferring to take the easy way out and just be a follower, not an innovator because when we take a chance there is always a possibility of failure which many r afraid of. They forget, there's also a chance of success.
But if we r afraid to fail, afraid of what others will think of u, then our progress is stunted and we will never live up to our potential. Failure just indicates that we have taken the wrong turn. So we persevere and try another turn. Soon we will come to the right turn that leads us to success and the experience will make us all the better.
I salute Bremen for daring to take the plunge and cultivate his art, his craft to the point that his headgear has been featured in countless fashion magazine spreads, worn by models on the catwalks and he has been invited on many talk shows, interviews etc.
So let these photos of his talk at the National Textile Museum, which ACG members where among the specially invited guests, speak of his creativity and much humble, likeable personality. In this talk, he thanked all those who helped him in his career and his struggle. Each of his mentors and supportive friends stepped up to the podium and gave a narrative / funny anecdotes and wished him many further success.
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