Created during Zi Xi’s time at Central Saint Martins due to her friends’ difficulties in pronouncing her Chinese name, the moniker MessyMsxi, with its alliterative ring, came to life. The third collection in our second season of Shentonista Restyled showcases not only some of the outfits Zi Xi has loved over the years, but also her artworks that have sprung from moments of spontaneity and inspiration.
Art is often a reflection of the artist, so meeting face to face with Zi Xi might pleasantly surprise you. Her art is inherently intricate, but they also speak boldly on the social issues that she advocates for. Some themes she has covered include the importance of living a greener life; murals depicting the mutation of flora and fauna; and what the world would look like when depleted of all its natural resources. Although her artworks speak about serious, complex issues, they tend to be whimsical and colourful in nature—but her fashion style is the exact opposite. Zi Xi donates her clothes every couple of years once she has outgrown them, and nowadays, she chooses to express her thoughts through her art rather than her clothes, preferring function and comfort over style. She enjoys being ready for any weather condition and finds it easier rotating the same set of clothes that is simple yet flexible. Below, Zi Xi shares her thoughts on how her art has developed over time, the frustrations of creating art, and the fascinating revelations when exposed to Gen Z’s.
How does your eye for art and design influence your fashion sense?
It’s quite interesting as my fashion sense has changed with my understanding of art. With my art becoming more focused on certain topics and interests, I realise that my fashion has become a lot simpler, and not as bold as before. For example, I used to be a big fan of Commes Des Garçons, as I loved all the different cuts, and the shapes that the clothing created on me. That was also influenced by the type of art I liked at that point. Now, when I think about buying clothes, I no longer look for those kind of outfits that are big on personality; rather, my eye goes towards the simple pieces instead. My emphasis is now on comfort.
How has your own art style developed over the years?
The biggest change is that my work has become a lot more serious compared to before due to the issues I want to advocate. My older works always had a sense of dark humour and were more illustrative in building characters. Now, my personal works are more serious because I focus on the issues that I want to advocate.
One of the narratives that I’ve been continuously talking about the past few years is the changing environment around us, both urban and natural landscapes. These two landscapes coexist but they also influence each other’s existence. I also wanted to explore futuristic landscapes such as answering the question of where mankind will be in 200 years. These works require a little more foresight (by looking into the future) and introspection (by thinking about the present).
What’s the most challenging part about creating art?
I would say it’s making sure your artwork can capture the message that you want to send out. I believe that a piece of work should resonate with a greater audience. I want for all my artworks to be meaningful, rather than just being aesthetically pleasing.
If there’s someone you could sit down for a coffee with, anyone dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
I would choose to speak to my friend James, who’s passed on. There are a lot of things that I’d like to chat with him about, and I’d just want to be able to spend a bit more time with him.
Part of the reason why we’re doing the Shentonista Restyled collections is to show people the importance of circular fashion. How often do you find yourself replacing the old with the new?
Every five years, I see what I’ve outgrown and donate them, and then my style changes. As for my current style, I’m tempted to use the word ‘boring’ as I’m not as adventurous as before. It’s essential to look good and carry myself well, but personally, what I wear does not define who I am. When I was younger, my clothes carried my personality. Now that I’ve found my identity, clothing is no longer my voice. It’s more functional and practical now. I need to be ready for different weather conditions, so mostly I’ll be dressed in active wear which lets me be agile. If I were to go to school—I’m an adjunct lecturer at NAFA—I’ll have a series of pants that I’ll rotate, so it’s basically my school uniform (laughs). Function is the most important consideration for me at the point.
To you, what is sustainability? Could you share with us some simple ways you practice this in your own life?
My habits are weaved into my daily life, such as being conscious of my habits, and bringing my own bag and containers to dapao. I feel like it’s become second nature at this point. Sustainability is being conscious of your carbon footprint. In today’s context, it’s really about using less and wasting less.
We live in a very fast-paced environment where sustainability is just a buzz word and not a conviction yet because we don’t really see the consequences even though we hear about it. Climate change happens gradually, but we often need things to happen drastically for us to realise and accept that we need to change.
Could you share with us any fun anecdotes about your outfits that are part of Shentonista Restyled?
Most of my outfits that are part of the Shentonista Restyled collection come from my travels. I tend to pick up more quirky items from the markets or the different areas that I visit.
In Singapore, a lot of boutiques sell items that are catered to what the locals like, which doesn’t appeal to me as much as buying a vintage bag or a quirky piece of clothing—that was my stance a few years ago.
Shop Zi Xi’s full Shentonista Restyled collection here.