Singapore fashion designer Max Tan has variously sent out looks that resemble oversize shirts, gothic nun habits and last season pinafores of faux wood. Right from the start the designer’s eponymous label was not really one for the ordinary shopper.

While creativity is good, fashion is design, not art; it is meant to be worn after all. Which is why Max launched a diffusion label Liquid that has been picked up by a bunch of department stores; looking at the Spring Summer 2014 collection from the main line, you can see that a closer relationship with the wearer (and buyers, I suspect) has led to a more “understandable” and approachable range.

max tan ss14 at digital fashion week DECOR 1Opening looks from Max Tan Spring Summer 2014 collection at Singapore’s Digital Fashion Week. Images: Sara Jane Ong

I once described Max Tan as being the Singapore designer most likely to come close to the work of Comme des Garçons; while this is still a possibility, the SS14 collection did more to solidify the label’s “signature” look rather than break new ground.

In a short video prior to the show, Max said he was thinking about using menswear shapes to create his womenswear pieces; not a brand new idea for either himself or a lot of other designers and something Max had previously done with his “White Shirt Reimagined” collection.

Still, while the opening looks were reminiscent of Max’s previous work – the use of a blown-out and/or oversized collar, extended shirttails and the prominent placement of shirting-style buttons – the new pieces were more fluid in their fabrication and cut more closely to the body showing an evolution of the work.

max tan ss14 at digital fashion week DECOR 2max tan ss14 at digital fashion week DECOR 3
The Max Tan SS14 show at Digital Fashion Week was sponsored by Singapore jeweller Poh Heng. Max chose pieces from the brand’s Oro22 collection to highlight his looks. For more information about Poh Heng Oro22, go to www.pohheng.com.sg/oro22.
Images: Sara Jane Ong

Showing his first “official” menswear look, Max then moved into more diverse shapes although the basic concept of a white shirt remained the addition of black inset into wide-legged pants and as stripes in full skirts or as contrast to more fitted pieces moved the collection forward from his previous work.

There were, however, also some more pieces that referenced his previous collections a little too strongly, particularly some of the “habit” long skirts with high necklines; a bit of judicious editing could have solved this problem.

Staying mostly true to his prefered monochrome palette in strong cottons, Max did, however, break out into an “almost” colour with the addition of a soft dove grey in a fabric with a bit of shine. This lightened up the more encompassing looks, particularly those with very full, very long skirts or trousers.

While the colour was different, there were again a few too many looks that resembled previous collection pieces from both the Max Tan main line as well as from the diffusion line Max Tan Liquid. Again, a strong edit could have reduced this.

WATCH OUR VIDEO OF THE MAX TAN SS14 COLLECTION RUNWAY SHOW

While overall many viewers of the collection may feel that Max Tan Spring Summer 2014 cannibalised a little too much of its own history, from the perspective of a viable ready-to-wear business the new, more wearable versions of some of the designer’s best pieces makes sense.

After all, even Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons has riffed on particular motifs and shapes repeatedly; for Comme des Garçons it’s almost always the jacket, for Max it appears to be the white shirt.

Max Tan Spring Summer 2014 collection was shown on November 2, 2013, as part of Singapore’s Digital Fashion Week. For more information about Max Tan, go to max-tan.com. Digital Fashion Week 2013 runs until November 4, 2013, at the National Design Centre, 111 Middle Road, Singapore 188969. All Digital Fashion Week shows will be televised live online at www.DigitalFashionWeek.com,

 plus.google.com/+DigitalFashionWeek www.facebook.com/DigitalFashionWeek

www.youtube.com/DigitalFashionWeek and digitalfashweek.tumblr.com.

Follow Digital Fashion Week on Twitter at @DigitalFashWeek and

Instagram at @DigitalFashionWeek for more updates.