I’m a sucker for fine fashion. I have roamed endless designer boutiques in London, New York, Milan, Tokyo and Paris in search of the perfect dress. When I was in Milan and Manhattan to promote my debut novel Yesterday, the first thing I did when I had some free time was to go shopping along Via Montenapoleone and Madison Avenue.
Fashion inspires me because it’s all about the art of storytelling. I have learnt from the fashion world that attention to detail isn’t just important. It’s everything. Detail is what separates the brilliant from the mediocre. Concepts are merely empty canvases to hang stories on; what makes stories come alive are the small but lively details that populate them. A tiny yet exquisite diamante on a bodice is like a beguiling character quirk in a novel: both make a story not just shine but sparkle.
The idea for my second novel Future Perfect came to me on a catwalk (I used to be a fashion model). At a show years ago, a backstage helper handed me an extremely-heavy leather bag, seconds before I walked onto the runway. I remember clutching the bag and thinking as I glided down the platform, almost blinded by the spotlights: What if someone put a bomb inside the handbag and we are all going to die? Would I have led my life a little differently yesterday, had I known I would die today? Years later, I sat down and began writing this episode from the perspective of a female model named Ally (the bomb unfortunately goes off in the first chapter of the book, killing the poor girl).
Fashion has also inspired me in terms of the people I’ve met. Alexander King in Future Perfect is modelled after a designer I had worked with, a sandy-haired creative genius named Alex. Hours before a show, he draped a large piece of white satin around me, fastening it with safety pins. He then pulled out a giant pair of scissors and began snipping away. I was mesmerised by how his hands danced around the fabric, how the skirt took shape as cuttings fell around my feet. I marvelled at how the garment came to fit me like a glove, how it flowed beautifully around my ankles. No one would ever know that the entire outfit was held up by pins when I went down the catwalk later that night. Whenever I think of a creative virtuoso, I think of Alex and the dress he magicked up around me.
Fashion is about having the right skin on for the right occasion, as a means of self-expression and individuality. A beautiful dress doesn’t just make a girl feel good. It makes her feel great. It opens her eyes to new possibilities, does wonders to her imagination and psyche. My favourite designers are Alexander McQueen, Christian Louboutin and Oscar de la Renta. I wore scarlet McQueen to the launch of Yesterday. How could I not wear McQueen to one of the biggest parties of my life?
Fashion also enables a girl to be bold, to take risks and experiment. It allows her to change who she want to be, what she wants to be. It helps her influence those around her. If a dress makes her feel invincible, chances are others will see her that way. If stilettoes make her soar, chances are she will tower high above the rest. If a dress makes her think big, chances are she will make a big impression.
To put it simply, fashion inspires me because it’s all about the celebration of beauty, the female form with all its perfections (and imperfections). A pretty dress brightens my day, gives me ideas, makes me feel alive. If beauty doesn’t inspire a person, what else will?
FUTURE PERFECT by Felicia Yap is published by Wildfire (out now; hardback RRP £18.99)