Fashion Artist from Kluang to the World


On a weekend afternoon, I joined potential homeowners to view the show units for Phase B properties at the Avira Medini Iskandar, a charming development by Eastern & Oriental (E & O) Berhad in Iskandar Puteri, Johor.

It was easy to find my way to the Avira Medini Sales Gallery, located directly opposite Citrine Hub.

I saw from the masterplan that this 207-acre development comprises landed residences, service apartments, condominiums and commercial units.

Fashion Artist from Kluang to the World
Clayrene Chan [Left] with a visitor [Right] and her customised illustration of an evening gown in a classic ‘Princess Dreams’ theme
From the conversations and languages overheard among the visitors, I could tell that they were a mix of locals and expatriates, some accompanied by children and senior members of the family.

To add interest to the event, the organisers had arranged fun activities like brewed coffee appreciation, hands-on handicrafts and a guest appearance by fashion artist, Clayrene Chan, who would create customised illustrations for visitors.

She would also demonstrate her Water Nail Art, using nail polish colours to create an illustration on water.

I was rather impressed by this young artist whose unique art had established a strong reputation on social media and was featured on print and news media like Channel News Asia and Mediacorp’s Channel 8.

In fact, her Princess Dreams series of illustrations caught the attention of international couture houses and started her on a journey to work with prestigious brands like Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Bally, Carolina Herrera, Tudor, Chopard, Moet Hennessy and Harper’s Bazaar, just to name a few.

These were mainly live illustration shows where her art was featured at product launches, new store openings and private VIP events held in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Melbourne, London and even a solo exhibition at Le Clef Louvre Paris for Paris Fashion Week 2018 in France.

As I considered her illustrious career in fashion art, I thought it was brilliant for Chan to be associated with E & O, an established brand in property, hospitality, retail and lifestyle products here.

At the Sales Gallery, I saw visitors filling up their names on a form, who would then take their turn to talk to Chan and have their own glamorous gown, custom-designed by her.

Using brisk strokes, this left-handed artist used the visitors’ choice of colours from a palette of water-colours to paint gorgeous gowns and added the final touch of glitz using frosted nail polish colours, dusted with sparkling bling.

When we were introduced, I was pleasantly surprised that Chan remembered meeting me back in 2012 at a fund-raising event for an animal shelter, held at the premises of the former EightLido in Johor Bahru.

Fashion Artist from Kluang to the World
Clayrene Chan in a live demonstration of Water Nail Art, using nail polish colours to create an illustration on water

From the confident strokes of her paintbrush, I could see that this Kluang, Johor-born, Singapore-based artist, had indeed come a long way since we last me.

Her talent and skills struck me as rather unique because she has an established niche as a fashion artist in a career with international couture brands.

During the event, the queue of visitors seeking a customised illustration from Chan was long but my patience paid off when there was a break and she could chat with me to share about her journey that took her from Kluang to the world.

This affable artist told me that it all started while she was in Chong Hwa High School, her alma mater in Kluang which was associated with Singapore’s Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) for its Art & Design course.

But when she won a full scholarship with NAFA to major in Fine Arts, her father did not speak to her for three months.

Like many Asian parents, her father felt that art was not a sustainable career.

In spite of his strong opposition, Chan, the eldest of three siblings, decided to pursue her passion in art in Singapore. Over the years, her father has become her biggest fan.

Looking back on her childhood, Chan acknowledged that she and her siblings lacked nothing because their father was a good provider.

In fact, she grew up on a diet of Disney cartoons and the dreamy princesses’ gowns – especially that of Cinderella – was the inspiration for her ‘Princess Dreams’ theme.

Chan confessed that she used to struggle with an identity crisis simply because she was Chinese but was obsessed with Disney princesses’ gowns, which had Western origins.

“Where do I belong?” “Can I make a living with art?”

These were questions that bothered her as she pondered over the concept for her Final Year Project.

During a semester break, she was home in Kluang where she spotted a lady selling traditional cotton candy.

This inspired her to stick to her Princess Dreams theme and for her project; she used cotton candy as the medium to design a gown.

After her graduation, she worked as an art instructor with a small studio in Singapore for two years.

Fashion Artist from Kluang to the World
It was fascinating to watch Clayrene Chan complete her Water Nail Art demo, seen for the very first time in Johor Bahru

As she helped students wash and clean their palettes, the attractive blend of colours caught her eyes and she wanted to preserve its beauty.

This sparked the challenge for her to move on from water-colours-on-paper as a medium, to using nail-polish-colours-on-water as an avenue to express her creativity.

Meanwhile she maintained an exciting online gallery of her Princess Dreams’ designs to share her art and added her latest Water Nail Art design series to her gallery.

She was thrilled when her designs were spotted and featured by Design Taxi, an international design website.

This was a huge motivation so Chan decided to focus on couture and went on to design grand gowns with a magical touch – using sparkling nail-polish – and established her signature style in fashion illustration.

When her work was featured by designer Zuhair Murad, Chan was invited to their Fall Winter 2017/2018 Collection show in Paris.

With her profile raised through international exposure, there was no turning back for Chan who went on to work on projects with brands like Ralph & Russo, Charles & Keith and Mikoto, a renowned jewelry brand in Mongolia.

Blessed with natural entrepreneurial skills, this fashion artist from Johor is certainly going places and someone to watch as her career blossoms.

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