Not everyone can proudly say that their hobby or pet project has turned into a successful business endeavour, but Elyn Wong can wear the fashion designer-cum-entrepreneur tag out loud and proud. What started out as a pet project nine years ago has evolved into a successful local label that is sold in not only Singapore, but also five other cities around the globe. Stolen has even been chosen to be a part of the travelling showcase for SG50, Singapore: Inside Out. We stole a few moments with her to find out more about the brand.
Tell us more about Stolen and how the label came about.
Stolen was birthed as a pet project about nine years ago, on top of my full-time job as a creative group head in an advertising agency. As a creative, I wasn’t contented with just creating within a perimeter. I wanted to do more than just ads. So fashion became my next outlet. Fashion, mainly because it is one of the most forward-thinking industry, always refreshing itself and keeping me on my creative toes, and more importantly, I get to do it from a slightly different perspective. Having a graphic background and exploring a totally different art form was very liberating to me. It has been highly challenging and along the way, I made a lot of mistakes. Despite this, the journey has been highly rewarding journey.
I started it really small, designing only three dresses and an accessories collection. I had them selling at a couple of my friend’s shops in Haji Lane area. Over the years, my customer base grew and my designs improved. This, coupled with an increasing international exposure, has led to Stolen’s strong brand essence. And now, nine years on, it has become my new full-time career. Stolen is selling in six different cities around the world. The journey is still a challenging one but I’m still loving every single moment of it.
How would you define the Stolen girl?
The Stolen girl is an extraordinary species. She shifts effortlessly between ages, sexes and aesthetics, and doesn’t exactly possess the kind of sex appeal that one generally associates with the mainstream. There would be a reason to stare. She prizes joy, creativity and, above all, intelligence. She displays a calm and collective cool, but there’s wildness beneath the surface. She is not a victim of oppression or a paragon of resistance, but rather, an individual made not of ideology or wishful thinking, but of flesh and blood.
Where do you get your inspo?
Architecture is a big influence on me – the Brutalist movement to be exact. Simple, clean, raw lines move me. I draw a lot of inspiration from structure and forms, art and also from my travels. Interestingly enough not so much directly from the world of fashion.
Stolen has been appointed as one of the designers to participate in the travelling showcase for SG50. Tell us about your experience so far.
It has been such a beautiful journey. Stolen has always been a big advocate on marrying different art forms, albeit being a fashion label first and foremost. So when we were approached to be part of Singapore: Inside Out, I was personally thrilled at the idea of creating a collaborative piece with an architect that I admire (Yong Ter) and infusing dance with an award-winning choreographer (Mun Wai). It is truly an honour for me to be able to work closely and alongside with our top local talents. The mélange and diversity in our ideas and creative disciplines have made this journey deeply rewarding and personally enjoyable. Furthermore, the opportunities to exchange, explore and tap into one another’s creative mind has been exhilarating. Needless to say, the ability to showcase Stolen as a multidisciplinary label and represent Singapore on a global stage is an accolade and achievement that I take great pride in and am thankful for. This is especially so for this Jubilee Anniversary. The fact that Singapore is unique to the world as a cultural melting pot makes me believe that Singapore: Inside Out will be an interesting showcase for the world, whether in Asia, Europe or the US.
You collaborated with a choreographer, an architect and an audio-visual collective for Singapore: Inside Out. What initiated the collabo?
I think it is Stolen’s strong art x fashion brand DNA that attracted Singapore Tourism Board and Zarch, the organiser and curator to initiate this collaboration. The fact that our designs are very much inspired by architecture, and also celebrate the strength and sexuality of women, kind of makes it almost perfect for this three-way (unlikely and maybe bizarre) collaboration. I am very appreciative that the curators and organisers have truly understood what Stolen is about and respected our creative direction. This is definitely something that Stolen is keener to do than yet another fashion runway show.
“Beings of A Garment” questions whether a garment is only alive when worn, or has a soul even without a wearer. What’s your answer to that question?
Personally, I see two kinds of garments: One that is non-existent until a wearer fills it up with confidence and comfort and it takes on the personality of its wearer (which are most clothes); on very rare occasions, there are also exquisite pieces that are so perfect on its own that don’t require the validation of any inhabitants.
Do you think clothes make the man or vice versa?
Even though I’m a clothes creator, I’m a firm believer that man should make the clothes.
What’s your Number One fashion pet peeve?
Transparent plastic bra straps. Who are they kidding? The whole world can see it. Luckily they are slowly going into extinction now.
What’s your advice for someone who wants to pursue a career in fashion design?
Do it in a city that allows you to soak in its entire culture. And starting a fashion label on your own means 90% business, 10% designing.
Check out the photos from the Beijing showcase below:
Images: Elyn Wong / Stolen