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Aiwei Foo

Aiwei shares the story behind her quirky wearable art

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Aiwei Foo

Published 2014.10.02

An enigmatic creator with a penchant for cryptic monologues, Aiwei is the quirky painter turned fashion designer behind her namesake label. From Singapore to Helsinki, she has crafted a niche with her trademark style of blending art and design to create wearable objects and one-of-a-kind artworks. Judging from her wildly popular Instagram account @awfoo, we’re not the only ones living vicariously through her daily observations. Read on to find out why for Aiwei, art is life and life is art.


01. Reformation

It was one of those hot humid days when Aiwei decided to pack up and move from her hometown, Borneo, to enroll in an art school in Singapore. Unbeknown to her, this would be the beginning of her reformation as a creator.

From moving to an unfamiliar new city with no friends or family in sight, she would eventually go on to build a reputation as a up and coming creator in the local indie art and design scene. But something wasn’t right. She found herself craving for more. And once again, she decided to uproot herself again. This time trading the sunny shores of the tropical island for the neverending winters of Finland to take her masters in Fashion design at the reputed Aalto University School of Arts and Design.

With a background in Fine Arts, she has built on that by applying newly acquired design thinking, techniques and learning to gradually evolve and form a core design philosophy today based on fusing art, design and life.

Aiwai story

I believe in the philosophy ‘Life as art, art as life’ and I like to celebrate everyday mundanity.

Wearing her capulet

Easy as it may be for followers of her work to recognize a creation made by her, it’s hard to pinpoint the defining quality which makes it so. As a creator, she sometimes wonder what people mean when they look at her work and exclaim to her ‘This is so you!’

It’s not happenstance that she has built a significant and loyal following on Instagram. Her work has always been appreciated and connected with others Her intriguing posts chronicle her everyday life ranging from the mundanity to the eccentric, usually accompanied with her trademark cryptic monologues, offering followers a sneak peek into the imaginative mind of the diminutive creator.

See you tomorrow...

Currently Aiwei is in the midst of launching her namesake Label / Studio, but for the past 9 years she has been working under the label ‘See You Tomorrow’.

"See You Tomorrow’s main idea is to say goodbye in a light-hearted manner."

Initially conceptualized as a design platform in 2005, she started off with a series of handmade books. Buoyed by the positive responses she received, she moved on to a produce a diverse range of cross-disciplinary art and design projects.

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New Tote Blue / Pink

Aiwei Foo
New Tote in Blue / Pink

She shares with us the founding idea of See You Tomorrow:

“See You Tomorrow’s main idea is to say goodbye in a light-hearted manner, it’s a signifier of hope even if you won’t be seeing that person the next day, or even ever. My first creation for See You Tomorrow was a series of handmade books which were made of found objects, fabrics and papers along with the compilation of my writings and a few illustrations. It was an experimentation of putting different materials together and looking for an alternative way in book making.”

02. Less is more as a design philosophy

As a child, Aiwei grew up in a frugal family. Her mother worked as a seamstress and it was through her that she learned to minimize wastage and develop a habit of reusing things. She cultivated a life based on living simple and consuming less. It is a honest family value that she has brought into her thinking and practice as a creator. Today, her creations are a mixture of new and old things, integrating found objects with new materials.

There are thoughts to the process can help the audience appreciate and understand the object better when shared."

“The outcome of a design object is important; it has to be of good quality and aesthetically appealing. But the design process for making things is often a lot of struggle, which is why I think the story is important about how an object reaches its final form. There are thoughts to the process which can be shared with the audience experiencing the object, which can help them appreciate and understand the object better.”

Img 0602 correct size

With sewing technique that is similar to embroidery and appliqué, different pieces were carefully put together in forming a shelter for the face.

Headthing

But less doesn’t mean that she skims on quality. She prefers to produce creations with a mixture of new and old things, often integrating found objects with new materials into the make of a creation.

“The outcome of a design object is important, it has to be of good quality and aesthetically appealing. But the design process for making things it’s often a lot of struggle which is why I think the story is important about how an object reaches its final form. There are thoughts to the process can help the audience appreciate and understand the object better when shared."

03. Creating from conversations

From experimenting from wearable objects to photography, music to writing and installation art to visual art performances, we asked the prolific creator why she does what she does.

“I have always had this urgency to initiate, create and make. Otherwise life will be dull and I’ll be depressed for not doing anything that feeds the soul.”

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Headthings
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Headthings as ornaments

She muses that while gets inspired by looking at pictures or what other creators are doing, a majority of her seeds of design inspirations have a tendency to germinate from random conversations with friends. With a design process heavily based on improvisation and an openness to change, she is the type who prefers to get her hands dirty as soon as possible instead of doing detailed sketches instead of obsessing over doing things a certain way.

“I have always had this urgency to initiate, create and make. Otherwise life will be dull and I’ll be depressed for not doing anything that feeds the soul.”

When asked why, she said:

“For me the most important part of my design process is to put materials side by side, to feel and study them instead of detailed sketching. I believe in flexibility, and I’m quite open to change and improvisation. Especially with handmade objects, there is no one specific formula. I know the final creation will end up differently than my original intention. Besides I like to get hands on with different materials and experiment during the production process. It’s a lot of trial and error, frustration and quite a few prototypes before the workmanship reaches a level I’m happy with. “

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Workspace

04. Fleamart Minimalist Clash

It’s challenging to pinpoint the defining quality or style of the creator, even though her followers can instantly recognize her work. So why try to fit a square peg into a round hole when you can invent your own genre and play by your own rules?

“I think I’m not exactly a minimalist, but I’d think of myself as someone ’in between.’ The influence is there — I do like the aesthetic — and yet it might be too dull for my practice in general. So, I’ve come up with my own genre, ‘Fleamart Minimalist Clash,’ to describe this dilemma, flexibility, and aesthetic. I have the tendency of working with found objects. but the ’clash’ is coming from the aesthetic itself rather than about the tangible objects.”

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New Tote White / Red

Aiwei Foo
New Tote in White / Red
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New Tote Black / Red

Aiwei Foo
New Tote in Black / Red

The featured Head Thing series is an exploration of head decoration made from fabric, which was inspired by handicraft. Each piece is a juxtaposition of different shapes, prints and colors. The one-of-a-kind neckpieces are relics created with Finnish wood from the (Un)bird project — a photo series about mimicking a small bird done for an exhibition in Tokyo.

“I’ve come up with my own genre ‘Fleamart Minimalist Clash’ to describe this dilemma.”

Much like her personality, Fleamart Minimalist Clash’s aesthetic is eclectic, like a melting pot of different eras and genres. It stands for flexibility, open-mindedness, and allowing space to develop different interpretations naturally.

05. A seeping Finnish influence

Living in Helsinki and experiencing the finnish way of life for the past 2 years has played a significant influence in her from design ethos to everyday habits. We were curious as to how she has adapted to the new culture.

“Having so much nature in Finland is good but it does get a little depressive with the long cold harsh winter but I try to take it positively. I realized how different the work you produce depending on what state of mind can be. The environment you’re in affects your work - the style change from the things that you see and the people that you meet.”

"The environment you’re in affects your work - the style change from the things that you see and the people that you meet.”

She confided in us that lately, she has been thinking extensively about different ways of working, processes and outcomes and that’s when she decided it’s time to move on to another phase as a creator.

“Sustainability is a big theme that’s consistently discussed around the campus and it’s something that I have actively been thinking about in my design process”

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I am against overproduction and wastage of materials, hence, I usually create limited quantity, and much prefer to do it with my own hands as this is another level of satisfactions of creating.

The beaming girl

From now till tomorrow

Aiwei was recently invited to speak at the Adventure Always, a design conference held in L.A., and she’s currently holding a progressive exhibition for the U-Factory in Singapore, where she is exhibiting some of the work she did last year in Tokyo. She is looking to wrap up her various commitments before focusing on the the launch of her namesake studio.

Somewhere down the road, she muses on the idea of collaborating with Blessed and Lucy Orta, two designers she admires and respects greatly.



Aiwei Foo

Quirky wearable art


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