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The Storybook Project

The world is made of stories and on this shrunken globe; men can no longer live as strangers. Thus, the process of narration is to make the world a smaller place with a cherish understanding of another human being through intimate conversations. Here’s a story of Daniela M. Tan, a fashion designer for an upcoming label, Mash-up.


What do you do for a living?

I’m a fashion designer by profession but teaching art and craft is what pays for my bills. My sister said something funny the other day. When I was 12, I wore skater jeans, t-shirts and Tupac bandannas. Who would have thought I’d be a fashion designer?


Initially, I wanted to do film studies as I enjoyed character reading in Literature classes. I ended up changing direction during my first year of Art College. I enjoy the immediacy of fashion design, well, in comparison to what I imagine a film production would take. I also like how fashion designers or designers as a whole, have to keep in mind their audience and the functionality of their products as well as the aesthetics of it.


In short, I think fashion design combines everything that I love: weaving stories, evaluating character patterns, researching and synthesizing things together. To top it off, it also gives the added advantage that we get to use tactile elements like fabrics, embellishments and such to illustrate our stories.


Describe the house you grew up in. What was your favorite spot in the house?

I grew up in La Paz, Bolivia. I lived at 4 Avenida Savedra. Today, it is a restaurant. It was a three-story house but we only occupied the second and third floors, while my aunt occupied the basement. Sometimes while playing, I would get splinters on my fingers as the floors were made from wood. The ceilings were made of glass and I could lie on my parents’ bed and watch the raindrops.


My favourite spot was a solaria; a room fitted with extensive areas of glass to admit sunlight. It was converted into a toy room, which got really warm in the afternoons. My sister & I had a tent house and a kitchen set where we would play for hours. Sometimes, we would sleep under two chairs draped with a cloth to create a tent. However by the time we woke up the next morning the cloth would always be gone.


What were your parents like while you were growing up?

My mother was always cooking, entertaining guests, or doing crafts with me. I remember anytime I did not listen to her advice, bad things would happen.


My dad helped me with my homework. He was a doctor and on his off days he would just lie in front of the TV and watched cartoons with us. We would also go out for walks to the nearby park and buy unhealthy but delicious street side food.


They separated once I was 8 and my mum stopped doing crafts and baking, and started working instead. She was always tired and busy and constantly worrying about us.


What was your first funeral like? Describe the life of the deceased & your relationship with the deceased.

The first funeral I can remember well was my grandfathers’ funeral when I was 14.

I only knew my maternal grandfather for about 4-5 years as I grew up in Bolivia. When we came to Singapore, we lived with our grandparents for a while and I grew to really love my grandfather.


He would recount tales of how poor he was when he was growing up in Indonesia and how he didn’t even have shoes to attend a prize ceremony when he was young. He would tell incredible stories and loved being around people. He was born in the year of the Rabbit so I’d like to think that I am like him.


Do you believe in a higher power? What has influenced this view?

Yes. It could be because I grew up catholic and I would pray in church every Sunday, before meals and also before sleep. I cannot remember what I prayed for but I’m sure I was always asking for help. I still pray and I feel at peace when I do. How do I know my parents love me if I can’t see it? How do I know God exists? Also, the world is so incredible and perfectly made, I am sure something, some power, spirit, energy source exists that joins us altogether. I’m just influenced by gut feeling and some romantic ideals.


What was the biggest lost in your life?

Losing family when my parents separated.


What is your favourite movie and why?

Amelie. It sums up my philosophy of life. We are all small players in life but that doesn’t mean we don’t make a difference.


What were your parents’ occupations? Did their work interest you at all?

I never thought I’d do what my parents do. My dad was a doctor. I was only interested to look at his equipment; otherwise, I hate blood and the smell of hospitals. My mum, on the other hand, was a maverick as she was always changing jobs.


How are you like your mother & father? In what ways have you specifically tried to be different?

I look and work, like my mother but I think I got my wits from my father. I have tried to be different from my mother by not letting men control my destiny, in this way; I think I have developed a fear of commitment.


If you have a month left to live, what would you do?

I would spend it with my family and loved ones; or try to go back to Bolivia. Honestly, I wish I could leave a legacy behind before I die but right now I do not know how to do that in a month.


Have you ever felt that you have a specific purpose of being alive?

As obnoxious as it sounds, yes I do. I feel like I was put here for a purpose, no way in hell would I have been dragged from one end of the world to the other if I didn’t have something I needed to achieve!


Written by: Estee Hamid

Photography: Daniela M. Tan

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