“I don’t do mood boards. I rely on instinct. Memory reveals the most lasting imagery from my experiences and they inform my designs. If I didn’t live life, I wouldn’t have my work. I’d have no story to tell,” says Josh Tirados over a glass of hojicha on a late Tuesday afternoon in his studio at An Asylum, a conceptual label supporting artists with its residency programme, of which he is currently a part. Barely three months ago, the 25‑year‑old launched his brand with a runway show at Figment Embassy House and started receiving orders for his collection.
While the Singapore‑based designer and multidisciplinary artist did not study fashion at the highest level (he eschewed the traditional route of obtaining a fashion degree following the completion of his diploma in Fashion/Apparel Design from Temasek Polytechnic for a residency at An Asylum in 2022, with his eye on starting a brand), he credits his professionalism to the lessons he learnt from his mentors, chosen families, and experiences—which include producing Shawna Wu’s Ooloi runway show, providing movement direction for creative projects, serving national service, attending raves and performing butōh, a form of Japanese dance theatre. Working at Dover Street Market Singapore was formative, akin to field research, he says. It was there that he discovered brands, understood clients and analysed garments. “I still remember an Ann Demeulemeester blazer,” he recalls. “It had invisible hand stitching that prevented the separation of its lining from the shell fabric.”
It goes without saying, then, that Tirados’ debut collection is personal. Its title, Anino, is a Tagalog word that can mean both “shadow” and “reflection”, and references Tirados’ Filipino heritage. Burrowed within the collection is a folk tale about duality. There is tension between the tailleur of fitted Sickle trousers in dark autumnal colours and the flou of flowy ivory whites. Bucolic textures and clay totems invoke pastoralism of the past, before giving way to contemporary silhouettes found on meticulously constructed jeans and a shape‑shifting denim iteration of Tirados’ signature Lyre bag. Knitwear crocheted by Tirados’ friends Abby and Alwin play with the density of their stitches, and while barely there tank tops are loose and sheer, skinny scarves are thick and tightly weaved.
Tirados likens Anino’s conceptualisation to the Buddhist concept of Indra’s net, where experimentations and a wide research scope formed a web of connections that made the collection whole. “Benevolence, the concept I was looking at, was broad, so I had to find my focus and then explore it in depth. When I created the runway’s final look—Anino jeans, the striped Anino waistcoat and the Tris Collarbone shirt—it simplified things and informed everything else,” he says. The three‑piece ensemble was where Tirados found interest in developing a collection centred around earth‑toned pieces that are multifunctional and capable of revealing bits of skin in places such as the shoulders, décolletage and navel. From there, he felt a natural inclination towards using deadstock cotton, ribbed jersey, and indigo denim that offers a range of finishes.
But what makes Tirados’ clothing special is his approach to pattern cutting. “It’s where I’m the most painterly because I have to negotiate lines and the spaces between them such that pieces shape the body nicely,” shares the designer. “Fit is my priority, as well as sculptural elements: how [the piece] hangs when held, when draped over the body, and in motion.”
Tirados’ intention for clothes to be multifunctional and polymorphic is evident in how a single pattern for his Knotted Rag dress can create a variety of looks: tied up as a toga top, nipped at the waist to accentuate curves, or twisted around the hip to form ripple‑like creases. The same approach applies to Tirados’ gill‑cut waistcoats that double as vest tops. Aside from adding multiple pockets, he included loops to the front and back of his waistcoats so wearers can attach personal ornaments and hang the pieces like button‑down shirts.
On issues of sustainability as well as the discontents of modern consumption and production, Tirados echoes Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto’s sentiments on people wanting to “pay nothing for clothes”. Fashion’s reckoning with size inclusivity, exploitation and environmental costs compels emerging talents such as Tirados to consider a list of checkboxes and realities. Though fulfilling them all is ideal, Tirados believes the responsibility is shared. Major industry players ought to pave the way forward, given how cost‑prohibitive it is for newcomers to grade garments for larger measurements and source manufacturers.
Taking pride in going slow, Tirados works within his means and operates on a made‑to‑order model. “I’m open to studio visits so I can do custom pieces for those requiring specific sizes. For now, there’s an ease in using the small, medium and large size chart because it’s more common,” he says. “I’ll compile my requests, order the right amount of fabric in bulk, and then make each piece according to that first come, first served basis. Making an order takes a few weeks because I’m the only one sewing, but it’s effective in minimising wastage.”
Dismantling the perception that clothing is cheap and instantaneous is another challenge. “It takes a lot of time, resources and blood to make a single piece,” he posits. “I’m bringing attention to the tradition where a wearer has a connection with their tailor. There needs to be care for a garment’s life cycle so that it lasts, just like furniture.”
Aside from other projects and performances in the pipeline, Tirados is currently looking to find stockists, manufacturers, and investors who believe in his brand’s potential for expansion. Collaborations, central to the label’s ethos of community, are also of interest. “I’d love to have partnerships with textile artists and material developers,” he says. “A silversmith who makes jewellery, ornaments or metalwork would be great as well.”