Last week, we got the chance to sit down with the founder of local fashion brand Stolen — Elyn Wong, who was awarded ‘Designer of the Year’ at the recent Zalora Style Awards 2018.
Having previously studied graphic design, Elyn worked in the advertising industry before starting Stolen 14 years ago as a hobby. Before she knew it, the brand started to have a loyal customer base, and what started off as a hobby eventually turned into a full-time job.
When we arrived, Elyn invited us into her cosy and intimate office situated on the top floor of the Straits Clan building. She showed us around and introduced us to her small team of 3 which reminded me of our own team at DC Creative (but they were obviously much more stylish, sigh).
ON HER PERSONAL STYLE
Elyn described her personal style as simple, explaining that practicality and comfort are most important to her when it comes to dressing up. “When I started my own business, I totally started to understand why people like Steve Jobs wear uniforms. It’s almost a necessity. It can save you so much time so that so that you can focus on other things in life,” she revealed.
“I like to inject a bit of personality into my dressing, so I’ll carry vintage bags or wear vintage shoes and accessories to make it feel more me,” she added. This love for classic styles was also evident in the wide array of vintage furniture that decorated her office.
ON HOW HER STYLE HAS INFLUENCED THE WAY SHE DESIGNS HER CLOTHES
“I see the beauty in things that can last for a long time. So when I design my pieces, I don’t chase trends, I design pieces that are more classic,” Elyn explained as she proudly showed us the first ever piece she designed and launched — a vest she designed 14 years ago.
She loves working androgyny and structure into her designs, describing Stolen’s style as ‘alternative-sexiness’. “I managed to use straight lines and a lot of pleating to create this piece, which strongly encapsulates Stolen as a brand,” she described.
When asked about her motto in terms of her design process and her label, she candidly replied, “any woman doesn’t need another dress, so as a fashion designer, I need to find a good reason for them to spend on another. I need to make sure that I design pieces that are worthwhile.” This has influenced Elyn’s collections tremendously, giving rise to pieces that have a truly unique and timeless quality.
COMBINING FASHION AND ARTS
When Elyn first started Stolen, she had a clear vision of wanting her brand to be a combination of fashion and the arts, which is something that instantly drew my interest.
“I think that in this cluttered world, people are looking for something exciting and different, which is why I’m still involved in quite a lot of art projects,” she remarked.
In order to continue being creative, Elyn keeps her brand involved in art projects which she calls ‘stolen alliances’. Her projects range anywhere from dance performances to installation pieces, with one of her biggest projects being a recent exhibit for Milan Design Week. She collaborated with German company Villeroy and Boch to design and create a Chinese wellness reflexology exhibit which was also published in Wallpaper magazine!
ON HER CREATIVE PROCESS WHEN DESIGNING HER COLLECTIONS
Firstly, Elyn conceptualises her ideas for her collection. Once she has pinned down her concept, she goes on to design the individual pieces to make it more aligned with the whole concept. Elyn explained that she likes to minimise and distil her designs, so once she’s very happy with one design, she will put it aside and revisit it 2-3 days later.
When she revisits her designs, she looks to see if there’s anything else I can eliminate, keeping only what’s best and absolutely necessary. “Sometimes when I really have nothing else to subtract from my design, chances are that design is the best,” she added.
SINGAPOREANS’ CHANGING ATTITUDE TOWARDS FASHION
Elyn talked about how a decade ago, there wasn’t much thought to support local brands, and how most shoppers (herself included) just bought fashion pieces purely based on style or design.
But much has changed in our local scene since then, and she’s noticed that supporting local brands is gaining popularity, with more and more Singaporeans looking to local brands for clothing pieces to add to their collection.
“Local designers have also done a much better job to make sure that they’re on par with international brands, be it through aesthetics or quality of the product,” Elyn pointed out.
WHEN SHE WAS AWARDED AS ZALORA’S DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
“I definitely did not think that I was going to win, I wasn’t even dressed up!” Elyn laughed as she recounted the situation to us. She explained that her brand Stolen isn’t very mainstream or “above the radar” as compared to a brand like Zalora which has quite a wide reach.
With that in mind, Elyn felt a mixture of shock and encouragement, when she found out that a big brand with such a huge platform was willing to support a brand like Stolen, which meant a lot to her.
“I think that Zalora is really brave for awarding me as the designer of the year as not only is my convoluted fashion-cum-arts business recognised, it’s also celebrated,” she added.
HER ADVICE FOR YOUNG DESIGNERS WHO ARE HOPING TO START THEIR OWN FASHION LABEL
“There are so many brands that come and go in Singapore’s fashion landscape but it’s very difficult for these brands to last,” Elyn pointed out. “The reason why I lasted for 14 years is not that I design the prettiest pieces, nor because I’m the best fashion designer, I mean, I’m not even trained!” she laughed.
Elyn revealed that she owed a lot of her current success to her tenacity, business sense, and all the skills that she had acquired from all her years of working.
“I think it’s actually quite crucial for young designers to work for a few companies first. Whether they’re companies that they really respect structurally, culturally or branding-wise, it’s important to learn some fundamental skills first. Starting a brand is easy, but maintaining it isn’t, so these experiences are necessary,” she added.
If you’re looking to get any pieces from Stolen’s collection, you can book a private atelier session with Elyn where you can visit her lovely office to fully understand the brand and even get a chance to learn about the ideation process behind Stolen’s different collections.
I hope that this article has provided you with more insight into the local fashion scene, and of course, we’d like to give a shoutout to Zalora and Stolen for giving us the opportunity to do so. Don’t forget to follow Zalora and Stolen for news and updates as well!
We will continue to feature various local talents on the blog so if you have any suggestions on who we should interview next, feel free to leave a comment down below!