A-dressing the mystery

Designer Sierra Chong talks about her eponymous fashion brand and how clothing can help you stand out

29 Sep 2020 / 18:26 H.

LOCAL fashion designer Sierra Chong couldn’t have agreed more with the famous words of the late American author, Dr. Seuss: “Why fit in, when you were born to stand out?”

Chong is not about blending in, she sees individuality as the key to unlocking personal style. In an increasingly saturated world, style not only defines one’s personality but also enhances it. In 2018, she manifested her desire to stand out from the crowd and to be different by forming her very own fashion label, aiming to solve the mystery of “dressing identically different”.

The brand’s most recent Spring/Summer 2020 collection signalled the comeback of the 1980s: an eclectic decade in fashion filled with bold and dramatic styles with a heavy emphasis on bright colours.

Chong reimagined oversized blazers and power suits paired with Bermuda shorts for a sense of tropical appeal, as well as pinafore dresses and shirt dresses for the preppy revival.

Chong graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design from the University of Northumbria. – COURTESY OF SIERRA CHONG
Chong graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design from the University of Northumbria. – COURTESY OF SIERRA CHONG

When you started taking an interest in fashion, how did you go about it?

“I remember being really ambitious in pursuing fashion from a very young age, perhaps when I was around seven years old. I started taking an interest in colour coordination, dabbling in fashion illustrations and flipping through the pages of fashion magazines even though I didn’t understand any of the fashion vocabulary at that time ... but nothing stopped me.

“Fashion has always been my biggest inspiration in everything that I do every day. It really is a part of me, from travelling to watching music videos to appreciating art.”

How would you describe the sartorial aesthetic behind your brand?

“As important as it is to introduce new and fresh ideas for each collection, I find it even more important to hold onto the core of the brand – that fashion is a lifestyle, and we should always stay true to ourselves. Nothing is more genuine than our individuality.

“Since the beginning, I have strived to create a versatile wardrobe for all genders without the need to set womenswear and menswear apart. The only thing I have to take into consideration is the distinctive physical features between women and men. For that particular reason, the pattern cutting and fabric selection are very important.”

How do you lay the groundwork for each collection?

“It starts off with a strong concept, followed by a tremendous amount of sketches before actually producing the garments.

“Though I’ve to admit, as a designer, I have a clear idea of what I want to achieve from the overall designs and aesthetic, but the real struggle comes during production – selecting the right colour and even the choice of fabric can be quite frustrating.

“However, [I feel] satisfaction beyond words once I get to see the final result.”

What was the reference for the Spring/Summer 2020 collection?

“The Spring/Summer 2020 collection is inspired by the vibrant scenery and colours of Sicily and Monte Carlo in the 1980s. Think tailored resort wear in bold colours and silhouettes to bring out the holiday vibes.

“If you take a closer look at the garments, there is a removable scarf attached to most of the pieces, and I styled them in a rather unconventional way. I wanted to introduce the idea [that] wearing a scarf is not strictly reserved for womenswear, [and is] applicable to menswear as well.”

What fascinates you at the moment and how does it feed into your work?

“As we are going through an incredibly challenging time during this global pandemic, everyone needs to wear a mask wherever we go, and that has inspired me to design a new collection that is both expressive and fun, making us look identically different.”

Your thoughts on the Malaysian fashion scene?

“Honestly speaking, it is still growing, but one thing I’ve realised is that local audiences’ conservative mindsets may be holding back the potential to develop further. I hope to educate the public to pay heed to homegrown designers

“It would be great to have a dedicated platform where designers can grow with better exposure.”

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