TaF.tc graduate Kae Hana has an impressive record: she’s a fashion entrepreneur, a member of the fashion design incubator PARCO next NEXT, founder of her first line Kae Hana, and now owner and head designer of her own plus-sized line Kae Hana+. When we were told that Hana was found on the set of Hollywood hit Crazy Rich Asians, we couldn’t help but be happy for her!
We were also brimming with questions. How was working on such a large team? What is it like working with some of the most famous labels in the industry? How is being on set different from being the boss of your own brand? And after this and all these years in the industry, what did you learn?
So last month, we talked to Hana about her experience, asking all our questions and more. Wearing one of her very own Kae Hana+ designs, she told us about her lifelong aspiration to be a fashion designer, her time as a TaF.tc student taking visual merchandising and fashion business courses, what being on the Crazy Rich Asians set meant for her, and her advice for budding fashion entrepreneurs, dressmakers & professionals.
What was it like working on set on a day-to-day basis and what were the highlights?
A lot of my job during my time there was reworking dresses or making the gowns fit better. And from the moment I first walked in, I was already thrown into it. We were already working on the wedding dress. It was about a half to three quarter of the way done. We were there to add on a lot more embellishments - doing the applique, adding on the feathers at the bottom, and adding on the crystals. That was one of the craziest that I’ve done. It was just full on wedding dress and nothing else!
There was this one dress, a blue Marchesa dress, which they fitted on to Constance Wu. We altered at least 30% of the dress. Even the flowers were not on her neck at all at first. The flowers, when the dress first came, were on the waist. We moved it up because we wanted it to be more focal - we wanted to give her a better look. That dress is a dress that I will never forget!
So besides that also, I had to do a couple of alterations for a couple of the main cast. Like Fiona Xie, she was Kitty Pong in the movie. I also had to alter dresses for Koh Chieng Mun and for Henry Golding.
What was one challenge you faced on set?
Being a ready-to-wear designer, I was not very exposed to a lot of silk or a lot of couture gowns. It’s not all the time that you can handle a Marchesa gown or a Burberry gown. So it’s a really good way to learn too. Right now, it has helped me not be very afraid of working with - you know - precious, and fragile materials.
How did TaF.tc help you prepare for Crazy Rich Asians and your own business, Kae Hana+?
When I was in school, I majored in Fashion Design. So there wasn’t a lot of exposure to visual merchandising and business - especially business! For you to be able to project your business for the next two years, you need to be able to breakdown the numbers. So that for me was very important.
We went to Japan to further carry on our visual merchandising classes. And it was really nice to be able to see how experts do it, you know? Now - whenever I have a pop up, or whenever I have a sale somewhere - I know how to bring branding - my branding - out. And I now know how to establish a really nice space. And I think that is two of the most essential things for my business.
What advice would you give a prospective student?
Find places that you feel comfortable with taking up courses. If you don’t know how to sew, find somewhere where you can learn how to sew, and learn how to pattern draft.
If you are ready for it, I hope you start learning right from the bottom. Start learning from the essentials. Start learning about how to identify fabrics, and how to treat fabrics. At the end of the day, you won't just be working with one kind of fabric or one kind of look. You want to expand, you want to get better.
Find yourself great mentorship. Find people in the industry that have/has/have has experience. Ask them about how to run a business, if you don’t know how to. Ask them how to find a prospective stockist. Ask them “Hey, how do you find production places? How do you trust production places?” and things like that. Because these are things that, at the end of the day, when you get all of this sorted out, it will be a smoother ride for you.
If you're interested in the courses Hana's shared about, check them out here.
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