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Mon, Mar 09, 2009
The Business Times
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Avant-garde as well as wearable
by Melissa Lwee

THERE are people who dream and people who act on their dreams. Afton Chen is certainly the latter.

Fresh out of Raffles Design Institute with a bachelor of design (fashion), the 22-year-old who won 'Best Graduate Project' in her final year of school and the Triumph Female Fascination competition last year decided to strike while the iron was hot to start fashion label Reckless Ericka with three more of her classmates - Ruth Marbun, Diorelle Sy and Kavya Bagamane.

'Times are definitely tough,' she says. 'There are few jobs out there for designers or even design-related jobs. It made us think, why not do it ourselves then?'

Once pushed in that direction, Chen and her friends were unstoppable.

Positive risk-takers

The collective will launch the label at the end of the month with both men's and women's wear lines and a selected accessories line, no mean feat for a venture that is less than a year old. The collection is based on the theme 'Brit kid goes to India'.

'We're all risk-takers,' she exclaims with a laugh. 'And very positive! I believe that if we stay positive and work hard, we will get there.'

The line will range between $140 and $250 for men's wear and between $100 and $250 for women's wear and aims to cater to a niche crowd of office workers who 'like a bit of a statement in their clothes'.

'There is definitely a market for our clothes in Singapore. Our clothes may incorporate avant-garde elements but it is certainly very wearable. Wearability is very important to us.'

She admits that as a start-up with little experience, finances are a worry. 'As this is our first collection, everything we buy and produce comes out from our own pockets. It will be nice when we can start making some money back,' says Chen who reveals that they are looking for help from government agencies like Spring Singapore.

'Financing is definitely a big deterrent to many other young designers out there. It's why they won't even take that step forward.' That said, the savvy girls have big plans on the horizon. As Sy and Bagamane are based in the Philippines and India respectively, there are already plans for the label to go regional.

Concludes Chen: 'Diorelle and Kavya are from these countries so they understand what the consumers there are looking for, and I believe that we are definitely in a great position to expand into the region, that is an edge that we do have over our competitors.'

This article was first published in The Business Times.

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