A woman’s love for clutch and minaudiere leads her to create her own brand.
WHEN she watches celebrities on red carpets, Siow Hui Ling is often drawn to the bedazzled clutches in their hands.
“I just love the eye-catching accessory. To me, a clutch completes a look. It is elegant and classy and is a perfect fashion statement.”
Siow would always carry a clutch for weddings and functions or even to dinner with family and friends. At that time, she had to buy generic mass-produced designs as there were limited choices that did not fit her style.
It made her wonder if other women who love clutches are in the same predicament. Realising that she could have her own brand of clutches, she did a research on local and international clutch brands as well as an analysis of the competitive landscape. She also looked at online platforms, payment gateways, and packaging specialists.
In November 2015, Siow launched The Chic Initiative which she describes as “a fashion label of statement clutches and exquisite minaudiere.”
“The clutches and minaudiere are statement and conversation pieces. They are chic, classy and elegant. One of the reasons I started Chic Initiative is because I wanted to craft a product that appeals to like-minded women.
“I realised the power of fashion as a means of self-expression and how we carry ourselves matter. There is no right or wrong as sense of style differs from person to person, but fashion has the ability to help us present our most confident and assured self,” says Siow, who is the creative director and chief executive officer.
A BIG LEAP
Before she ventured into clutch and minaudiere design, Siow had years of experience in the banking and finance industry. She had also helped her father in his oil palm consulting business. When he retired, Siow realised it was time to explore her own passion.
It is a big leap from dealing with figures but Siow says entrepreneurship is about solving problems, which she is very good at. Banking and finance involves analytical thinking and that has helped her in the business, she says.
“I relished the challenges of creating a brand and infusing my personal sense of style and aesthetics in crafting a message that will speak to a like-minded and receptive audience. I have always been fascinated with branding and how other fashion labels position themselves and communicate what they stand for.
“Clutches are wonderful accessories that will easily elevate any look. It’s a great idea to pick versatile clutches that will take you effortlessly from day to night. I also advise our customers to invest in three basic pieces in black, silver and gold as they will match most outfits. Also, get one with a pop of colour for that conversation piece that will draw attention and create a memorable impression.”
As creative director, Siow says she ensures the design is timeless and keeps up with the latest trend but still follows her style and preferences. Her muses are Australian actress Cate Blanchett and Queen Rania of Jordan.
She says she would go through fashion magazines to keep herself updated on styles that are on-trend and in season. She would then incorporate the trend with her interests to create a collection that is consistent with the chic elegance the brand wants to convey.
“For example, my love for Italian opera translated to an opera collection that will be launched in our next collection at the end of this month, where our sequin, lace and crystal series are inspired by elaborate and opulent stage costumes. And each series is named after my favourite opera works.
“I am also inspired by beauty in all forms. It could be exquisite high jewellery pieces from a Sotheby’s auction or the late Zaha Hadid’s fluid architectural designs. Throughout the creative process, I’ve learnt to trust my aesthetic instincts even though I have no formal training in design. I always have this in mind: We are not in the business of selling clutches and minaudieres, we offer our customers a medium of self-expression, it’s a privilege to me because listening to them is important.
PASSION FOR DETAILS
Siow works with the designing team in Hong Kong and once the design is completed, the clutches are sent to a manufacturer in China. Her passion for details helps in the creation process as each clutch is covered with high quality materials such as mother-of-pearl, snakeskin, crystal and saffiano leather.
Branding is important to Siow so that Chic Initiative stands out and this includes offering signature packaging with dustbag and initials engraved on the clasp as well as after sales service.
“To ensure that the brand DNA is consistently conveyed across all touch points, I enjoy paying attention to the details: From the font on our website, to the thickness of the textured paper of our care cards, to the specific cream colour in our signature packaging.”
She says Chic Initiative would introduce about three to four collections in a year, with Hari Raya and Christmas being the biggest collections. For each collection, there are 12 to 15 designs and colours. To keep them exclusive, about one-third of the collections are limited edition.
For the past two and a half years, since she launched the brand, Siow says the challenges have been in trying to raise awareness, establish the brand and expand the presence in more markets.
It has been a roller coaster and a learning curve for Siow but she feels there is still a lot of work to do to take the brand further.
She says it has been a steep learning curve but she is now beginning to feel more settled and assured after learning from mistakes and gaining experience.
“The journey as an entrepreneur is inherently challenging and I’d like to see myself grow. But it is worth it when a woman bought seven clutches because she loved the designs. It is heartening to me to see people respond to my brand.
“Our customers are also a great source of ideas for me. Having had the opportunity of getting to know them, I’ve come to understand their preferences. In turn, they have given me invaluable feedback on what they look for. In these personal interactions which I really enjoy, our customers even send us photos of inspiration pieces as well as seek styling advice, showing us outfits they are looking to accessorise.
“Our customers have so many options out there, so when they trust us and buy our clutch, I consider it a privilege, that our customers would give us the opportunity to the part of their story and journey of self-expression.”
Chic Initiative clutch and minaudiere are available at Robinsons The Garden, Fashion Valet and Shoppes at Four Seasons Place, which is opening soon. The clutches and minaudieres are also available online at www.thechicinitiative.com and Zalora Malaysia.
GLITZ AND GLAMOUR
FOR this year’s Hari Raya, complete your look with clutches from The Chic Initiative. The collection — Bintang — depicts the celebration of Syawal nights with dazzling crystals and shiny metallics.
Inspired by the glitz and glam lifestyle of an elite woman, the collection serves as the perfect companion for any Hari Raya ensemble for day and night.
There are various style in the collection including Sofia metallic clutch in gold and silver; Zara velvet clutch in black and blue; Nadia leather clutch; Nerissa crystal in black, green, red, blue and rose gold. Prices range from RM489 to RM689