LIFE IS SHORT. GOTTA MAKE GOOD USE OF IT. 生命短暂，活出最大的自我。
Kolin is a quiet and steady sort of person. Back in 2009 he was a businessman: as the Finance Director for the Armani Hotel being built in Dubai, he spent time traveling all over the world away from his friends and family and working on spreadsheets and long-hours meetings.
Then the dazzling city sent him a clear message: it was time for him to reset his priorities. And so he did.
Kolin is now a Singapore-based fashion designer investing his energy to make his brand styl.myl. [www.stylmyl.com] grow day after day.
Was it painful to leave your career to do fashion?
Well, my career as an accountant was extremely lucrative so of course I had to adjust to the different economic scenario. But everything else was not too difficult: I was extremely bored and the property crush that hit Dubai around 2009 didn’t make things easier. I thought the time was right for me to leave that environment – after all life is short and I wanted to have a happy life.
Was Dubai sending you a clear message?
Yes, I think so. Only in Dubai I had time to stop, focus on my life and reset my priorities. It might sound strange, but life there after work is extremely slow and lonely, without friends or family around. I rediscovered my passion for art and fashion. Also, back then [in 2009] Esmod had just opened a branch there – and I read that as a message the city was sending me.
Why did you feel the urge to go back to school?
After working for 10 years I felt I had to go and learn more about fashion design. I wanted to broaden my horizon and above all to do things in the right way. Going back to school, in Dubai first and then in Paris, was refreshing: I tried to learn as many things as possible rather than just going through a process.
When and why did you come back to Singapore?
After working in Paris as an intern for Veronica Leroy and Balmain among the others until 2014, I wanted to do something by myself and to launch my own brand. This is why I came back to Singapore, my hometown. I found a much more vibrant fashion scene then before. And I found friends and family waiting for me – I would have never found the strength to do something I had never done before.
What about the Singaporean market for independent labels?
Well, Singapore retail market is extremely small – there are only 5 millions people and the offer is so wide. Also, there is no wholesale market for local designers and I think this is not acceptable. Of course there is some interest towards independent design, but the majority of people keep buying LV or Prada. This will change in the future, but we are not there yet.
What’s your fashion approach?
I mainly design detachable jumpsuits – I find them very stylish and fun at the same time. As a young man I joined the army for 2 years in Singapore – during that time I wore overalls every single day. So now I feel jumpsuits are something I’m extremely familiar with. They are unique pieces, stylish and edgy.
What are you focusing on right now?
My focus is to keep the business small and steady. And I need to look at foreign markets, as Singapore is extremely overfilled. The best way I can think of is to attend trunk shows in Paris and NY and work with experienced buyers. Only once I have orders I start production. There might be other adventures waiting for me around the corner, but my brand is still young, and I need to build a stable base for it. It’s hard work, but I’m enjoying it so much.
Kolin’s story is so inspiring. It has all the perfect ingredients: strong passion, hard work, past unhappiness, final sense of fulfillment.
With stories like this, who needs Hollywood movies?
La storia di Kolin Chong ha tutti gli ingredienti per essere la base per un film: le location da sogno, Dubai, Parigi e Singapore, una passione trascinante, per la moda, e un sogno da inseguire a tutti i costi, quello di fondare il proprio brand. E poi ci sono la fatica di lasciare la propria posizione stabile per un futuro ignoto e la soddisfazione per ogni piccolo risultato raggiunto. Ora aspetto solo il lieto fine.
For the pictures, special thanks t0 styl.myl.
Translation by Jasmine Wang.