Moto Guo: Menswear, Malaysia and Beyond

23 August 2017

Meet the designer making a name for himself with fantastical narration, sartorial quirks, and tailoring techniques.

Moto Guo is a Malaysian menswear designer. In 2015, he launched his eponymous label after graduating from Raffles College of Higher Education, an academy which boasts a roll call of distinguished designer alumni the likes of Alia Bastamam, Joe Chia, Jonathan Liang, Man Chien and Silas Liew, among others. Since then, he has moved fast at making a name for himself in Malaysia and beyond.

Last year, Guo flew the national flag as one of 23 semi-finalists shortlisted for the annual LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers – the first Malaysian to be a part of the final selection for the prestigious Prize, too. It took the trailblazer to Paris, where he showed his autumn/winter 2016 collection to Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld, as well as a panel of industry professionals, which included Juergen Teller, Karlie Kloss, Patrick Demarchelier, and many more.

Moto Guo (right) with the label’s second creative director, Kinder Eng

“To a 25-year-old, it meant the world to me. To quote the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso: ‘We all need to be needed’,” says Guo. “It's a human desire to feel needed, and to be of service to society. This feeling motivates me to strive further every day,” when asked about his time in Paris.

Amid the flurry of all the men’s shows at Milan Men’s Fashion Week, Guo debuted with a bang – in a controversial move, he sent his models down the runway with blemished skin, which, while breaking headlines, also broke some boundaries of beauty ideals.

Such is his mission statement. His signature is in the creation of contradictory collections; though they’re compassed by commercial appeal the pieces are peppered with a sense of boyish, childlike naiveté.

Moto Guo’s exuberant awkwardness goes hand-in-hand with exaggerated, vivid aesthetics; think distorted details, oversized jackets and unshapely silhouettes. “Even I’m not sure what I’m going to sew next”, Guo tells us, which is apparent with his spring/summer 2017 collection, Picnic in the Society. In this collection, tropes of masculinity are subverted by clothing male models in traditionally feminine motifs, such as gingham patterns, pussy bow blouses, and tea towel tops.

“I believe everything that happens in life plays a great factor in what we are doing,” says Guo, who hails from Teluk Intan. Music was his first love; Guo studied music in the beginning, and in between classical music classes, he developed his passion for fashion. He quit music, enrolled into fashion school and the rest was history. “Music… for sure, it has changed my perspective of life,” he remarks.

As Malaysians, are we supportive as a nation towards homegrown fashion designers? There especially aren’t that many menswear labels and talents in Malaysia and even the region, compared to womenswear designers.

“Everything has its limitations; I take these limitations as a challenge throughout my career,” he says.

In 2016, Moto Guo made an official statement introducing and revealing Kinder Eng as the second creative director. The label was officially declared as a collaborative result between the two designers, with Guo being perceived as the left-brain and Eng being the right.

“He is rather important to my life, my brand,” says Guo of Eng. “He has been with Moto Guo since the beginning, even before it started; we are a great pair to each other. Promoting Kinder Eng is one of the best decisions that I’ve made for myself and for my brand.”

Moto Guo’s fifth collection – for fall/winter 2017, titled Strawberry Fields Forever and Ever – is in cartoonish, childlike spirit, awash in pastel and sorbet palettes; boys are dressed in children’s twee clothes, sweaters sport floral and swan embroidery. What might we come to expect from Moto Guo and his team for the rest of the year?

“‘Expectation kills’, I always remind myself and my team,” says the designer. “I would suggest you don't expect, but embrace whatever you are going to see or hear from Moto Guo next."

For more on Moto Guo, visit www.motoguo.com.

By Ng Su Ann
Images courtesy of Moto Guo

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