When you’re getting dressed for the day, you open your closet and you are greeted by the familiar combination you see everyday. You want something vogue, something new, something YOU. And then you enter the daily dilemma of how to compose your look for the day. If you are heading somewhere special later on, you might even hear a mental scream at the back of your head: “What would I wear!?”
Meanwhile in Mandarin Gallery, one of Singapore’s classy, artsy shopping malls, fashion designer Liu WeiLing can be found offering professional styling tips to customers. WeiLing’s boutique, trioon, can be found alongside other uptown famous brands like Marc Jacobs and Galliano. She started up her own boutique to create women’s wear with elegant, feminine versatility that can take the modern lady from a day at work to an evening date after.
Today, we catch up our former Fashion Design student and talk about her experiences in the design field – from her education to the setting up of her own business:
Why did you decide to study Fashion Design after you got your degree in Computing?
I have always been interested in designing and the arts. So, even when I was studying computing, I did part-time fashion design courses. I had classes once a week in private schools just to get a rough idea of how it will be.
So I guess the transition between computing and fashion design wasn’t difficult. I managed to cope.
How important do you think it is for a fashion designer to have their own website?
Well, it is very important to have a website. It is to inform existing customers about what we have to offer, and also our potential customers on what our brand is about. Because social media is very prevalent now, so having a website may be the first impression that people have of your brand.
What’s trioon’s store concept?
The concept of the brand is to be feminine and graceful. I want to portray the feminine and graceful image without being boring. So, styling-wise it can appear modern and edgy as well.
The boutique’s name is a song title by Alva Noto, he’s a German sound artist, so he worked with Japanese pianist, Ryuichi Sakamoto, to create the song. I heard it at a dance performance and found it very memorable.
So why did you choose Raffles?
RDI has a good reputation, and several successful designers graduated from RDI Singapore. Before I joined, Sven was well-known then. That was one of the main reasons why I chose this school. And I heard that RDI focuses more on technical skills which I wanted to learn.
Did Raffles teach you what you need to know to be a designer?
Yes, I think it was useful. The drafting, draping and sewing that I learnt in school are the most useful lessons I picked up for my career. They are very useful because they allow me to understand the construction of a garment. For example, my drape jersey dress which was a best-seller. So if I didn’t learn that module, I would not be able to actually modify the drapes.
I think it is important to understand how a garment is constructed. Because then we will know what can or cannot be done. And one thing about RDI is that they emphasize on finishing, which I think is very important.
What do you miss most about being a student at Raffles?
The freedom? As a student, we have a wide space to do our work and unlimited time. So, upon graduation, working and running a business makes time a luxury. And in RDI, my school mates were fun. It was a very lively environment studying there. They have students from a lot of different nationalities as well. I made a couple of close friends there, I still keep in touch with them, but some of them are overseas now, so I contact them once in awhile.
Right after RDI, what was the first job you had?
I was working in local design houses. I was working for two years before I started trioon. The first one was EUT – I did B.U.M equipment. The second one was for department store brands. I think experience and contacts are needed to run a business.
What gave you the extra push to start up trioon?
When I was studying fashion, I knew I wanted to start up my own business. That was my ultimate goal. So, working as a fashion designer was just for that couple of years. Because I feel like when I work for other people, the creative process can be hindered sometimes because of their brand rules and all.
Ultimately, the boss and the creative director will have the final say. They have their ideas, so we’re just executing the designs for them. That’s not what I want. I have more freedom to design my own stuff here.
What do you think is the most important skill or attribute that a designer must have?
I think a strong point of view is important – and perseverance. Despite getting feedback from other people, we must know who we are and not waver. Because if we change our aesthetics because of what other people say, then ultimately it’s not ours. And I think patience to see through projects and collections is really important.
What advice will you give to budding designers out there from a business perspective?
Young designers can look to SPRING Singapore for grants to set up their businesses. They can receive up to SGD50,000 for this. It is the benefit of being young and in Singapore – you have to be below 26 to receive the grant.
After graduation, it’s best to work for a couple of years before starting your business.