Satirizing Taste and Revaluing Art


An Interview with Prim Shalyn, The Design Student Redefining Kitsch

Prim Shalyn is the young Thai fashion designer behind an infamous “hair clip” dress and “chair dress” that have gained traction on social media. But her work is about much more than just viral pictures and creating the unexpected. 

GLITCH had the pleasure of speaking to Shalyn to understand more about her collections, and pick apart her opinion on the state of art today. Shalyn spoke to us about feeling ironically uninspired by the Mona Lisa, frustrated at commercialisation, and how satire can reinvigorate design…

What is your earliest memory of being intrigued by fashion?

The thing which I have always loved and done is drawing. Since I was a child, I would often sew clothes for my Barbie dolls and participate in various textile competitions. When it came to choosing a university and a degree, I made a serious decision to pursue fashion, inspired by TV shows I watched about fashion design competitions. My decision to study fashion felt like I was following my childhood dream. 

Who is your biggest design influence? Who was your first fashion icon?

John Galliano was the first designer whose work I followed. To this say, his creations are amazing and captivating to me.

Was there a lightbulb moment that inspired your “kitsch” collection? Can you narrate the ideation process?

The initial inspiration for this collection dates back to my visit to the Louvre Museum, where I saw the real Mona Lisa. It made me think about how this piece has been copied and reproduced into commercial products countless times. These products are often referred to as kitsch art, which means artworks that are cheap, devalued, or imitations. I thought it would be fun to take kitsch art items and turn them into valuable pieces of fashion.

The whole collection was guided by the word “kitsch,” and centered around items that lack good taste, are cheap, and are commonly seen. However, the collection also reflects the mainstream popularity in the aesthetics of the masses.

This concept satirizes taste and value in art. I took everyday items that people are familiar with, such as hair clips, pencil shavings, bows, and lighters, and creatively turned them into clothing. Another source of inspiration is the artist Jeff Koons. I admire his creative thinking, the way he connects with people, and his approach to art. All these elements have come together to create these pieces.

How is your personality injected into your designs?

I love uniqueness and beauty. I always see the beauty in the things around me. I enjoy drama, grand gestures, and vibrant colors. I am someone who likes to do many things at once, which is why my work incorporates various materials and techniques.

My ideas are simple yet captivating. This collection truly reflects me.

What is your favorite look you have created, and why is it a favorite?

I love the blue chair look. Inspired by the concept of kitsch art, I analyzed and interpreted the idea, selecting objects to represent and communicate the concept.

This led to the creation of the blue chair look. I personally sculpted the prototype by hand before casting it in fiberglass. This outfit employs a variety of techniques, including latex costume making, sculpting, casting, and craftsmanship. These techniques are seamlessly combined to create this very unique piece.

Your collection is dramatic and larger than life — who exactly is it for?

When I designed the blue chair piece, as well as other, I intended it to be like wearable art in the form of conceptual wear, focusing more on showcasing than everyday wear. Therefore, the target audience is people in the fashion industry and trendsetters I suppose. It’s for people who want to present something new in fashion.

Your designs are very tongue-in-cheek & unexpected — do you think the fashion industry needs to take itself less seriously? How are you challenging traditional perceptions of fashion?

I believe my designs offer an alternative for those who appreciate this radical style. I still have a fondness for traditional fashion. However, from my perspective, I want to present something that stands out from the ordinary, both in terms of design and materials. I think it’s great that the fashion industry embraces diversity, allowing people to choose different shapes, forms, and textures that express people’s individuality.

What is satire to you?

For me, satire is a challenge. It poses questions for people to ponder about how we value things. Does the true value of something lie in its complex backstory, high level of craftsmanship, beauty, and expense? Or is value really based on each person’s individual taste?

I am reminded of a quote from Sherlock Holmes: “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” The implication of this sentence is that in our daily lives, many things are clearly present, but people often overlook or fail to notice them. This could be because they are familiar with these things or don’t consider them important, even though these things might be more significant or meaningful than we realize.

Your work hinges on the elaboration of everyday objects. Is it easy to find inspiration in the everyday?

My work may appear simple at first glance, but it’s actually quite intricate. The process of selecting each item involves analysis and feedback from many people. It’s important to ask whether the chosen materials resonate with others, effectively communicate ideas, and, most importantly, when designing garments from these materials, they must appear novel, beautiful, intriguing, and wearable.

Do you see a distinction between fashion and art? How do you see these industries overlapping or distancing?

Fashion and art are closely related as they both reflect one’s identity, culture, thoughts, and lifestyle. However, they differ in how they are perceived over time.

Fashion tends to constantly seek newness, whereas art, as time passes, often gains more value.

What is your verdict on the state of fashion?

I believe that fashion is something people consistently take interest in, driven especially today by new designers from all corners of the globe. Trends evolve rapidly, propelling the fashion industry’s rapid growth. Therefore, current fashion not only focuses on creativity and beauty but also must consider sustainability. For me, sustainability means designing garments that are efficient to use and provide maximum utility and benefit.

Do you intend to disrupt the traditional fashion industry, and how so?

The current fashion industry often has a conflicting relationship with the environment, where fashion desires increased production while environmental concerns call for reduced manufacturing.

I personally remain passionate about designing innovative creations. I am committed to pursuing a circular business model, focusing on renting rather than selling. This approach aims to minimize clothing waste and promote long-term sustainability. I will also continue to play with fashion in an avant-garde way, redefining how we view fashion and it’s purpose.

Interviewed by Hebe Street from GLITCH Magazine

Words by Prim Shalyn 


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