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Stylish for all seasons

15 Jul 2020 / 11:28 H.

With designs ranging from feminine to edgy, and quirky to minimalist, Ellie E. Norman shows her versatility and creativity as a fashion designer, through her collections for her fashion brand, My Apparel Zoo.

“I wanted to create a catchy name that (gets) stuck in the mind of the customer,” explained Ellie, a Malaysian born in Canada. My Apparel Zoo encompasses various styles, for women from all walks of life, ranging from classic to comfortable.

“It represents that our brand aesthetic is versatile and unique in its style, and that anybody who loves fashion can own a piece from the brand,” she said.

Ellie’s Spring Summer 2018 collection is inspired by ruffles, pleating and bold African prints showcased at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week RTW 2017.
Ellie’s Spring Summer 2018 collection is inspired by ruffles, pleating and bold African prints showcased at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week RTW 2017.

Just like legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel, who once said: “I don’t do fashion, I am fashion”, Ellie doesn’t get influenced by any trends.

“Fashion trends always change and make a comeback from time to time, so, I don’t get inspired by trends. A trend that I foresee and forever will be is the classic and yet comfortable clothing, which My Apparel Zoo, places a high priority on with our collection,” said Ellie, who won the Most Outstanding Brand Award for her Ryutai Collection which was presented at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week Ready-To-Wear (KLFW RTW) 2016.

“My personal style has definitely evolved over time. I love a good classic staple piece, in my wardrobe. Currently, my style is clean and minimalist. I like to wear versatile things and that can easily be incorporated with many of my other outfits,” said Ellie, a management degree holder from the University of West of England.

Ellie’s Spring Summer 2020 collection ‘Féminin en Imprimés’ showcased at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week 2019.
Ellie’s Spring Summer 2020 collection ‘Féminin en Imprimés’ showcased at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week 2019.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

“Since I was a child, I wanted to be an entrepreneur and run my own business, as I was inspired a lot by my family.

“My mother runs her own business and, growing up, I have always looked up to her. So with my love for fashion and clothes, I decided to follow her footsteps in the business world.

“I am also inspired by my peers. The successful women, who have established themselves in the fashion industry and who have made it, internationally.”

How did you get into fashion designing and creating your own brand?

“We started by using social media as a platform to sell our designs in May 2014. That year, the trend to shop on social media was picking up. It was a new norm, among shoppers. In the first few months, we got good feedback from our customers and word of mouth helped our brand.

“Eventually, in Oct 2014, we opened up our studio boutique at Publika (Shopping Gallery). We have a small in-house team to create our garments, and an area to display designs and for consultations with our clients.”

How would you describe your brand?

“The brand is best known for using eclectic prints in its design, from African fabrics to Japanese prints. For the past three years, the Resort Wear label has evolved from prints, cuts and silhouettes patterns but still keeping to the brand’s main aesthetic, which is a chic staple, and versatile pieces.

“My Apparel Zoo aims to bring something fresh to the table in every collection and strike a balance between creating designs which are unique, and at the same time wearable, it’s one of the main traits of the brand.”

Where did you get the inspiration for your latest collection, and what sets it apart from others?

“Our latest collection is the Raya 2020 Custom Collection. We are inspired by a traditional style, infusing the Chinese signature Mandarin collar with our classic baju kurung, kebayas and kaftan kurungs, and infusing a scallop trim to give a modern and quirky touch to the collection.

“What sets it apart is our own custom design prints, which we created especially for the collection. The prints are soft colours, florals and abstract designs to suit a variety of our clientele.”

Ellie’s Spring Summer 2020 collection ‘Féminin en Imprimés’ showcased at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week 2019.
Ellie’s Spring Summer 2020 collection ‘Féminin en Imprimés’ showcased at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week 2019.

Tell us about your best-selling collection.

“The KLFW RTW 2016 collection known as the Ryutai Collection. We went to Japan for a family holiday and my husband and I visited a textile scene in Tokyo. I was very much inspired by it and designed my whole KLFW collection based on it, and won the best outstanding brand for that year.

“The collection did well and many consumers loved the Japanese inspired collection I created, as the cuts and prints were well-received during the fashion show.”

What are your future plans?

“In light of the Covid-19 virus pandemic, almost all businesses, especially the fashion industry, were badly affected. Our future plans are to focus more on our custom design pieces.

“Now, I am adapting and managing the things I can control [including] minimising costs and overheads, and hopefully try to weather the storm as best as I can.

“Even after Covid-19 has stopped spreading, there is uncertainty over the economic situation we will face. To overcome this, I set my expectations that it might take time to turn around the business. So, the most important thing is to manage my costs, and take it from there.

“Currently, I am producing on an on-demand basis instead of mass-producing collections, to help manage the business flow, and this is one of the reasons why I created diffusion lines under the brand to help adapt to the market. Our diffusion lines are Zoo Basics for basic wear, and Ellie Stone Custom, our custom design label.”

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