Interview: Michelle Wong, fashion designer of the year
Slated to open in spring 2010, Parco@Millennia sent the fashion scene abuzz as 25 young local designers took part in its Fashion Incubator program. To kick off the series, we speak to the winner of the Fashion Designer of the Year 2009 award.
They came, they sewed and they conquered. But it was Michelle Wong of the label La Belle who was the judges’ choice for Fashion Designer of the Year 2009. Her clothes impressed both audience and critics with their clean, sleek aesthetics and simple wearability. The recent graduate of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts talks to CNNGo about the philosophy behind her work.
CNNGo: Why did you choose to call your label La Belle?
Michelle Wong: La Belle was adapted from the French term "La Belle Epoque." When translated, "La Belle" means beautiful. I chose this name for the simple reason that I just want to create clothes that make women feel beautiful.
CNNGo: And your current collection is tellingly titled "Austere." Do you think it’s why you stood out from the rest of the designers?
Wong: Yes, it’s precisely because of the lack of adornment and ornaments in my designs that makes it a contrast to the rest.
CNNGo: What made you decide to take part in Parco@Millenia's Fashion Incubator program?
Wong: I'd just graduated from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, and initially, I was going to continue my studies in London. I changed my mind when I saw the mentorship program that’s part of the Fashion Incubator project. It was an opportunity to learn directly from the industry. I wanted real working experience and lessons from veterans of the industry. Such lessons are not available in school and I just had to grab the chance. The designer competition was just an added bonus to this entire Incubator project to discover more about fashion design.
CNNGo: Share with us what you learned from the experience.
Wong: I learned far more than I have ever been taught in school. The business management aspect is particularly useful for me: as a design student, I’m only been trained in the design area. Yet, to be a fashion designer, it is not only all about design. Ultimately, I have learned to express myself in my designs and be a businesswoman at the same time.
CNNGo: How would you describe your style and what are your inspirations for this collection?
Wong: My collection reflects who I am as a person and a designer at a particular period. I like clothes to be clean and not overwhelmed by details and designs. It doesn’t hurt that tailoring runs in the blood. I seek my inspiration from traditional tailors who rely mainly on hand-sewn stitches.
CNNGo: As a young designer, what are your aspirations and hopes for the industry?
Wong: I hope the world can acknowledge Singapore as a fashion capital, though it won’t be easy to break boundaries and create a distinct Singaporean fashion style and identity. It doesn’t depend solely on the fashion industry; everyone plays a vital role to reach this dream. To begin with, I think Singaporeans have got to change the mindset of dressing for comfort. Fashion is also not about vanity; fashion is identity.
CNNGo: What can we look forward to when your label is launched in Spring next year at Parco@Millenia? In the meantime, where can we get your clothes?
Wong: My launch collection will follow the same concept of clean and tailored designs. I will showcase a collection that is very wearable and easily matched with other items in your wardrobe. I’m now in the midst of starting my website, but to purchase my designs, email me at email@example.com or visit my LA BELLE Facebook group page for more updates.