Posts Tagged ‘Singapore Fashion Designers’

Interview with Singapore veteran fashion designer Jo Soh (Hansel)

September 17th, 2010 Comments off





Hansel, a local label that constantly produces sweet and whimsical designs capturing hearts of many Singaporean women of all ages truly made Jo Soh, founder and designer of the label, one of the most recognisable names in local fashion scene. That is why we here at TSG wanted to know more about the innovative mind that is behind the signature geeky spectacle frame and quirky bowl-cut bob hairstyle. Read and enjoy as Joh shared how she got interested with fashion all thanks to her fashionable mother, the latest store interior installations which never failed to capture her customers’ attention, and all things that is Jo So in our exclusive interview! By Luth Seah Zhiqiang




TSG: From pop out cardboard furniture to doodling a house for your paper dolly collection, what is your starting point for such interior face-lift each season? Will there be another surprise for this upcoming “Lily the lady” collection?

The starting point comes from the theme of each collection – a two dimensional home for a paper doll, or, in the case of the temporary pop-up shop, a pop-up book inspired cardboard interior. The desire to have the environment suit the different themes stems from a love of theme parks since childhood. Each time you step into a different part in a theme park, your mind is transported to an entirely different world. Your senses are heightened and you get excited and curious about EVERYTHING inside that world. When I pass through the gift shop at the end of that experience, I always wanted to buy a little souvenir to remind me of my experience. As such, I believe that apparel retail is not just about the apparel – it’s the whole experience as well.

In keeping with the ladylike theme of “Lily the Lady”, I have created an oversized white pearl necklace and oversized paper dollies for the front window display. On the walls are words and phrases associated with acting and dressing like a lady, such as “POISE”, “MANNERS”, “LACE”, “PEARLS” and just in case our hansel shoppers should wonder what to do: “WHEN IN DOUBT, DRESS UP”. All these have been “cross-stitched” onto traditional bunting strung on the shop walls. I have also arranged the display tables with chairs and glassware as if there is a genteel tea party happening in the shop!



TSG: What made you decide to get into fashion? Have you always been interested in it?

My mother was a very fashionable woman who picked up on new trends with ease and confidence. She had a few different wigs, she would perm her hair at home (often times I was the guinea pig for her new home-perming kits!). She had false eye lashes, lots of shoes and accessories. In fact, her wardrobe was so large that her clothes overflowed from her cupboard into my brother’s and mine! At that time, my brother must have been about 8 years old, and his reaction to her storing her clothes in his cupboard was to charge her rent of 50 cents per month! (Today he is working as an auditor in a bank.)

I must have been just 6 years old then. My reaction was the more typical for a little girl – I tried on her clothes in the mirror and would sometimes sit inside the cupboard, in sheer joy just to be surrounded by all the clothes! So it was my mother who showed me the joy and complexities of clothes and appearance, and I decided at age 12 to pursue fashion design.



TSG: What was the idea using Singapore Art Museum as a backdrop and how did it relate to the themes and inspirations behind the collection itself?

“Lily the Lady” is about an imaginary aristocratic, cultured young urban girl doing “cultured” things like visiting museums, having tea, cycling on a old fashioned bicycle and other such ladylike activities. The Singapore Art Museum was a natural choice with its elegant colonial architecture. I love old-fashioned, elegant and ladylike dress styles with their womanly silhouettes because I feel they do really bring out the WOW factor of the curvy feminine body. I love the playful tease that comes through with the idea of up-keeping modesty and class by wearing demure twin sets and strings of pearls, although the VERY feminine silhouettes suggest other ideas.



TSG: You’ve collaborated with so many different and fascinating individuals. Could you tell us a little about some of those relationships and how they came about?

Luis Cantillo is a Colombian multimedia artist currently living in Beijing. When he was living and working in New York, he created the animation video for Captain Cheese.


Luis and I got to know each other when we were both studying in London. He is one of the few people who instantly “get” my ideas and work! The video he did required NO guidance from me at all, apart from my Captain Cheese drawing that I sent to him. I absolutely LOVED what he did! Luis also photographed my collection when I graduated from Central St Martins in 1999.

Adrian Wee (also known as DJ – he runs the Poptart nites at Butter Factory, where he works as their marketing manager) and I have known each other since year 2000 when I worked as a waitress in the now defunct Insomnia Cafe (NO, not the one at CHIJMES). It was a very “underground” bar/club in Bugis Village). He created the tracks for all my fashion shows starting with my 2003 debut show in Australia. He also created the tracks to hansel’s animation videos, including Luis’ “Captain Cheese”! He is also someone who was able to grasp what I wanted without much complex explanation.

Zi Xi (otherwise known as Messy MsXi) was my student when I taught part-time at Temasek Polytechnic years ago. She was a great student with buckets of talent. She has since graduated from Central St Martins and is working as an artist/illustrator. She has also created an animation video for hansel – it was for the “Robot Girl” collection.






TSG: If you could create your own retreat what would it be like?

A luxurious tree house on the edge of a lush green forest, right by a private stretch of white sandy beach. Mmm…



TSG: If you could use three words to describe the Hansel label, what would they be?

Quirky, fun, wearable.



TSG: What are you working on at the moment and what future projects do you have on your agenda?

After 7 years of practice, I have experimented with various ways to create the concept for a collection and now have my own process of what works well for me. I have learnt to recognize when an idea is good to turn  into whole collection and when it would not. I am more confident in my designs now, and have found the right balance between expressing my own ideas and producing wearable clothes that my fans would want to buy and wear. At the moment, I am working on AW2011, for release in shops in Aug 2011. We are also wrapping up on our uniform design projects for DBS Bank and POSB Bank.



TSG: Your designs won you a sort of celebrity fanbase that includes Katy Perry, Denise Keller, and Chiaki Kuriyama, how do you feel about it?

These ladies are beautiful, successful and influential! It is such a big compliment and an honor that they have worn hansel. This is especially the case for Katy Perry, where she had picked to wear that hansel Sequin Bustier Dress herself!



TSG: Besides platforms like Singapore Fashion Festival to create awareness, what kind of support do you feel home grown labels need?

The most important support that Singaporean fashion labels could get is the support of Singaporeans, ie, Singaporeans to buy Singaporean. Australian pride for their own Australian fashion labels is strong and I would like Singaporean pride for their own labels too. Currently, the local market is still largely divided between those who shop for cheap mass fashion labels because of the low price points, and those who shop at famous international brands because of the status associated by wearing them.  There is a growing group of Singaporeans who think otherwise and this is the group that I hope will continue to grow!



TSG: Do you have any tips and suggestions for young people who would like to start a designing career, and participate in collaborations with different companies one day?

Collaboration is easy and will come naturally, when you connect with fellow like-minded companies that have styles that complement yours but doesn’t compete with you for the same market. In terms of setting up their own businesses, I think that’s the tougher part because not all people are suitable for owning and running their own businesses. It is a completely different thing from being a designer!



TSG: What are the difficulties faced being a designer today?

In terms of a self-owned fashion label like hansel, we don’t have the budgets of larger companies so sometimes we are unable to afford that market outreach that larger labels have, for example, opening up several retail outlets at one go, or have sales/PR agents in a few countries at one time. We also don’t have the economies of scale compared to mass labels nor the fame of international brands. So we compete more on design value and
also, if you compare us with the mass brands and the international brands, our products are actually extremely good value-for-money!



TSG: Who are your favourite designers and why?

I really love IKEA for the way they democratize good furniture design!



TSG: What was your favourite outfit from the 80s?

I remembered that I had a happy yellow dress with a Peter Pan collar and a sash that I tied in the back with a bow that I loved for many years.

Campaign Photo Credits:

Location: Singapore Art Museum
Photographer: Ming
Hair and Make-up: Kenneth Lee
Bicycle from

Vanguard Designs



Geometric Minds

May 26th, 2010 Comments off



Geometric elements can be found widely in the Spring Summer 2010 collections from the Marina Bay’s Parco next NEXT designers, with each incorporating the theme differently in their individualistic ways.
From the body-conscious to draping silhouettes, the minimalist to the military influence, the range is so broad in a single place that it is not hard to find pieces from these creative minds that relate.





The Team


Photography / May Lin Le Goff
Creative Fashion Direction / Ashburn Eng
Hair & Make-up / Mav Chang
Model / Emily Green  (Upfront Models),  Danielle Thomas (Looque Models)
Text / Luth Seah Zhiqiang
Styling Assistance / Shanna Matthew 




1. Sleveelees turtleneck shirt, SkinsNBones
2. Cut-out dress, Pauline.Ning
3. Pleated top and matching pleated leggings, Mae Pang
4. Y-backless dress, SkinsNBones
5. Dress, VELIANI
6. Zigzag dress, YUMUMU
7. Drap dress, Tilly
8. Pleated dress, phylia   

All clothes are available from PARCO next Next at Parco Marina Bay  


Interview with Singapore new homegrown fashion label SATURDAY

February 23rd, 2010 Comments off

“Form” Spring Summer 2010 by SATURDAY

Rediscovering complex geometrics, the notion of creating in adapt details out of overlapping and layering sheer nothingness, like a twin set asymmetric piece of knitted garment on its body.

Form is unbounded by any fixed silhouettes, approaching each new mistakes with even bigger anticipation to make even more.

These irregular forms occur in such an artistic manner, exciting us with their unfinished details, absolute incoherence in shapes, absurdity of flow and their entire lack of structure.

Twisting and turning, draping and paneling, constructing every garment purely based on an expectation that there will be none to begin with. Each garment evolves from the previous form to begin with, highlighting its juxtaposition of irregular streamlines and geometric style lines.

Fabricating newness, readapting to forms.


The Inteview
Veteran local designer, Nicholas Wong, has got something new up his sleeves, but this time, he’s not alone. Partnering with Daniel Loh, assistant fashion designer for Nicholas, label SATURDAY is the latest offering to Singapore’s ever-growing fashion ground. Both designers introduce the new label, their partnership, as well as their unique views on all things fashion in our exclusive interview. By Luth Seah Zhiqiang.

Test Shoot Gallery (TSG): The design philosophy of SATURDAY?

Nic Wong (N) & Daniel Loh (D): SATURDAY is all about keeping things minimal, effortless and taking a more pragmatic approach in clothes making. It is easy to be different, but it is very difficult to be better. It is about changing the misconceptions and stereotypes of basic casual wear and their place in the wardrobe. Our designs are not determined by trends; instead they are our personal take on aesthetics and experimentations on garments. It is all about celebrating the imperfect, the impermanent and the incomplete.


TSG: Can you tell us more about your partnership? What are your roles and how do you work together in creating the collection?

N: There are no roles, we are pretty flexible.
D: We handle everything from design to marketing, to overseeing production to managing the retail operations. Of course we do have our colleagues, pattern drafters, and production assistants that we work closely with who make everything work.


TSG: How different is the working process when you collaborate with someone compared to working on your own?

N: Trust is the common language spoken, but it is important to have the same rapport with the individuals that we are collaborating with. For example, during a shoot, we must work closely with the photographers and stylists, making sure the execution and the end product are in harmony.
D: We also need to have mutual understanding between ourselves. We know our limitations and more importantly, are receptive to each other’s creative input on ideas.


TSG: It has been 2 years since the conceptualization of the label Saturday; what is the reason you’ve kept us eagerly waiting for your first collection?

N: We did not want to launch it as ‘just another label’. We wanted to fine-tune all areas of the label- branding, designs, production quality, retail and business aspects. The planning was crucial in making sure that we delivered not just quality, but also an experience.
D: Even though we are working on casual wear and basics, the finishing is very important and we have had multiple fitting sessions to get a great fit on every style we’ve designed. Oh, did we mention that we are still working on our shop cards right now?

TSG: As you may have noticed, communicating fashion through video seems to have become the “next big thing”. Why do you think this is happening?

N: Consumers are getting technologically savvier and want more than just another still image- video fits just that. It translates moods and portrays the garments in motion, offering both interactivity for consumers and conveying a message even stronger for the label.
D: From photography, video and even collaborating with illustrators for some of the upcoming campaigns, creative disciplines no longer stay in solitude but cross boundaries: fashion and art, fashion and film,
fashion and music and then some, like the recent Jennifer Lopez’s new song about Louboutins; it just doesn’t stop there.

TSG: What has this industry taught you?

N: In terms of business, we have to be more thorough in our planning and everything we do must be in black and white. Being in the industry for 4 years, I have experienced some backlashes and various unforeseen situations that have threatened the business, as well as circumstances one cannot control especially when operations is not local.
D: Being more realistic in both design and business aspects. You have to take in account production costing; is your product affordable in retail? It is no longer just you and yourself; it is an involvement that affects everyone you work with. Nevertheless, one cannot compromise their integrity.

TSG: What were your childhood aspirations?

N: I thought I would make a good runner or swimmer.

TSG: What are your thoughts on the current state of menswear? How would you like to see it evolve?

N: Locally, we are still very lacking in the menswear availability, and there are only a handful brands that are established.
D: In design schools, there is an obvious lack of exposure to students on menswear. There is this due to the misconception that menswear can only be the shirt, jacket and pants combo, but it’s actually more than that. And I guess most designers have this fear to cross this uncharted path, but they have to realize that the men’s taste in fashion has changed dramatically over the years, and so must their ideas about it.

TSG: Who would you most like to dress?

N: It would probably be Alexa Chung, model and TV presenter from the UK. Her versatile look would carry off our label very well.
D: My mum, she would make a really wicked model to work with. No fusses, pure fun, effortless, perfect!

TSG: What are your upcoming plans?

N: Focusing on establishing the label and sharing our design and aesthetics globally, one step at a time. We are currently in talk with New York buyers and we will also be launching in Kuala Lumpur with MATERiEL in March this year.
D: We recently collaborated with the duo from VICE & VANITY on a new range of accessories that is only available at the NICHOLAS flagship store in Marina Square, and we are already working on with yet another collaboration with them that is set to be ready in April this year.

TSG: Who is/are your greatest artistic influence(s)?

N: Jackson Pollock. I remembered the first time I chanced upon his artworks,was during my college years while I was visiting the Guggenheim Museum in New York. It was the colors, the dripping and splash technique that was anything but deliberate. The coincidentally well calculated geometrics in his works that astounded me.
D: Egon Schiele, whom I believe many are familiar with, literature works from the late Theresa Duncan, who still intrigues me on her theories and thoughts, like a prose; light hearted and yet full of meaning. Other
notables would be graffiti artist, Banksy, photographer Henrick Purienne and J.D. Howell, and illustrators like Garance.


TSG: What advice do you have for our designers who are just starting out in their careers?

N: Still waters run deep.
D: Four meals, take a humble pie as your staple daily breakfast for a start, a serving of less talk and more action as lunch, knowing your ability and limits for your dinner and end your supper with a tinge of respect when you work with others.

TSG: Platforms such as the Singapore Fashion Festival help create awareness. What further support do you think our homegrown labels need?

N: Funding would be a cliche answer, but I would say supporting homegrown labels in their efforts to be featured and introduced internationally to places like Japan, Holland, Germany, and Scandanavia. To be marketed there with the backing of a government body will be amazing.
D: Collaborations with other international labels, or even cross-disciplinary projects with other artists and designers could spur interesting projects and campaigns.

TSG: Thank you for this wonderful conversation.
D & N : My pleasure


Materiel Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Lot 3.62 Tel: +603 21649381
Nicholas Marina Square #02-323 Tel: +65 6337 3726 and Stamford House #01-03 Tel: +65 6339 0223
Vice & Vanity
Campaign Photo Credits:

Photography/ Mark Law
Fashion Stylist / Jeremy Tan
Make-up / Peter Khor
Hair / Alvin Foh
Model / Alyona (Mannequin)
Necklace / Vice & Vanity






We’re mentioned in The Fashionisto

February 2nd, 2010 Comments off

Special thanks to Onin Lorente from The Fashionisto for the lovely mention.
Please click
HERE to read the complete article online.

“PRESSED” Spring Summer 2010 Campaign by MAX.TAN is on the bus-stop!!

January 29th, 2010 Comments off


Test Shoot Gallery is proud to be the official creative partner in producing this campaign for homegrown label Max.Tan. Posing alongside this campaign is Luth Seah, who is currently a contributing writer for Test Shoot Gallery. Ashburn Eng, the creative director for the advertising campaign skipped the safe option of picking another female model. Instead, he illustrated the genderless qualities in the designs by choosing Luth, who personally believes and dressed in Max’s creation as well.



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