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Mon, Mar 09, 2009
The Business Times
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With talent, grit, a love for fashion
by Melissa Lwee

WHEN fashion designer Chia Wei Choong finished National Service, he was at a loss as to what to do.

Armed with little work experience and unfinished fashion school qualifications, the 25-year old knew that his chances of finding a job would be difficult.

But with a love for fashion, huge talent and much grit, he decided to take part in 2007's Singapore Fashion Designer Contest and Asian Young Fashion Designer Contest, both of which he won.

In fact, he so impressed the local fashion jury that his menswear label Antebellum was picked up by fashion retailer Front Row, and his first collection was sold out subsequently.

Last November, he teamed up with eight other Singapore-based designers to organise an independent fashion show called +9.

He admits that luck has played a huge part in casting him in the spotlight but impresses that the road towards success was not an easy one. 'It is difficult being a small designer in Singapore,' he says.

'Because my production numbers are small, it is difficult to find tailors who will take on my projects. And I can't take the production to somewhere like China, for example, because they produce in the tens of thousands - they're not going to help me do mine.'

Worth their price tags

He adds that, as a local designer, it is also difficult to convince consumers that his clothes are worth their price tags. 'For example, many people will think: why do I have to pay $300 for a shirt designed locally? But what I try to do is to source for the best materials and keep the integrity of my designs, which I try to make as original as possible. And that's why people who buy my shirts understand their value - because they can't find something like that elsewhere.'

Into his third collection now, the enterprising young designer reveals plans to make his clothes in smaller sizes to cater to the women's market.

'I will still keep the same shapes and silhouettes for my shirts but I'll produce them in smaller sizes to fit women. I think there are many women out there who like a more masculine cut for their shirts.'

That said however, the young designer still harbours hope of one day completing his degree at a fashion school overseas.

'It would be nice to go out there and experience what the world has to offer and the opportunities that follow,' he says with a wistful smile. 'As a designer, I think that would be great for me.'

This article was first published in The Business Times.

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