To mark International Women’s Day on Friday, Sushma Veera talks to three designers about designing for women
ACCESSORIES DESIGNER CRAFTING
It started with her love for Swarovski crystals and her interest in designing, and it did not take long for Sonia Subhas to start her own line.
“I love designing. I sketched clothing designs when young and I had always loved art. Accessories became an interest much later on, during my 20s,” she says.
Her first project was a pair of Swarovski embellished shoes for her sister Sweetha’s wedding in 2010.
“That was how it began. I taught myself through the Internet and magazines, and soon, orders started coming from friends and family,” she added.
She co-founded Styles Of Sonia with her husband, Anthony Fabian Ferdinand Raj, focusing on handmade jewellery with Swarovski and Oriental crystals.
She calls her design line Twinkle, Sparkle And Tinsel Me Now. “I’ve had such a love affair with Swarovski crystals since I was a teenager and I was so excited about making my jewellery using them that I knew this is what I want to do.
“Twinkle, Sparkle And Tinsel Me Now describe our designs very well — twinkle and sparkle for the twinkling and sparkling effects and tinsel for the metallic sheen,” says the 35-year-old mother of one who is expecting her second child.
Her collection consists of nose studs, earrings, headpieces, necklaces, wristlets and basically anything that blings.
In describing her style, Sonia says: “I like mostly bohemian, gypsy, as well as Indian designs. Sometimes, I want to wear something elegant and a simple pair of pearl drop earrings will do. Sometimes, I feel I want to do something flashy, so I will create something with lots of crystals.”
She juggles her time between caring for her son and helping her husband and sister to manage their family business, The House Of Sonia.
Founded in 2003, Innai Batik was born out of a family’s love for batik and urban aesthetics. Izrin Ismail’s mother, Aishah Saleh, was the founder.
Breaking the boundaries of traditional art, Innai combines traditional hand-drawn batik craftsmanship and fine fabrics with contemporary designs and silhouette.
Izrin, 29, says the initial business, which focused on batik pieces from Kraftangan Malaysia, developed further when customers expressed a preference for modern designs.
“We started ready-made items like baju kurung and subsequently, the idea for kaftans came up,” she says.
Kaftans are now the best-seller at Innai.
“We have kaftans in a variety of styles. And some kaftans pass as dresses appropriate for formal functions and weddings. For the international market, kaftans go well with the resort look,” says Izrin, who took over the business from her mother after gaining four years’ experience in the industry. Her good taste and eye for design have taken her business places — locally and internationally.
Determined to make batik a favourite with the younger generation, Izrin uses the textile to create fashionable pieces.
Although there are a number of reputable male designers around, Izrin says a female touch is required when it comes to designing for women.
“As a woman, I find it easier to relate to women’s bodies. I am inspired by a variety of sources — fashion magazines, the Internet, international magazines and stylish friends,” she says.
“It is important that we cater to our customers who keep up with trends. Unlike before, local women are putting an effort to dress up for work and play. They also like to customise their outfits for weddings and other formal functions.”
A well-dressed woman, she says, is one who wears her clothes with confidence, has her own style, and invests in timeless pieces and quality clothes.
“With fast fashion and all its publicity, people seem to have lost their sense of individuality. Everyone’s looking the same. People want to stand out, but in reality we just want to fit in and be accepted.
“We are overwhelmed by choices when it comes to fashion and its trends. So we need to be smart about our purchases and to balance fads with classic pieces.”
On a personal level, Izrin describes her style as effortless chic. “My style becomes part of my brand which, in the fashion business, is critical. My personal style is like an advertisement about who I am and what I stand for. It must be credible, authentic and not disposable,” she says.
UNG YIU LIN
SHOES AND BAG DESIGNER
The designer and owner of Shoes-ShoesShoes says designing for women is fun as they always have a need for a different look, be it shoes or handbags.
“Cuts and shapes do matter when you dress up women of different body shapes, sizes and needs. As a woman myself, I know what flatters and what doesn’t,” says Ung Yiu Lin, 33, who is also designer and owner of resort wear Idylinn and designer bag label Klutched.
Yiu Lin developed her interest in designing since young. She grew up admiring her mother’s shoe collection.
Shoes, she says, play an important role in creating a well-dressed woman.
“I have always believed in accessorising, and what better way to have fun than with shoes. It is a shame when you see a well-dressed woman in an amazing dress and carrying a fabulous handbag but wearing the wrong shoes,” she says.
“I believe in execution of style from top to toe, and the shoes should not be left out.”
COMFORT AND WEARABILITY
Being in the designing industry for the past seven years, Yui Lin says designing is only part of the job as she focuses on not only creating shoes that look amazing, but which are also comfortable.
With such brand vision, she adds, customers feel comfortable wearing the brand’s five-inch heels.
“I like to dress up with an edge, something that can carry me from day to night as well as make a statement with fabulous shoes, handbag or accessories,” she says.
Local women are experimenting with fashion, especially with access to affordable brands.
“At ShoesShoesShoes stores, women look for head to toe solutions. This shows women are putting greater effort into getting a look right.”