CONFESSIONS OF A FASHION DESIGNER
November 11, 2012 – 1:43am – The New Paper – By: Maureen Koh
He dislikes people who stereotype his industry and profession.
“People tell me that all designers are gay, (that) we only dress skinny people.”
“Hellooo!” fashion designer Hayden Ng snorts indignantly with a flamboyant wave of his hands.
Despite being one of the foremost names in the fashion industry here, and hobnobbing with celebrities and high society, Mr Ng, 46, says his clients are real people.
“I don’t call them ordinary women; they are R-E-A-L women. Women who have children, doing real things.”
His list of “real” women includes bankers, lawyers and doctors – the professionals who go to him for day-to-day ready-to-wear or evening attire, which starts a $600 a pop.
The self-taught designer explains that he has had to work hard for his credibility.
“I was a Science-stream student. When I told my father I wanted to go into fashion, he thought it was a joke.
“Until now, he still thinks that it’s a joke. Sometimes.
“I just don’t remind him it has been 30 years since,” he says laughing.
A fashion designer has to have pretty thick skin, because the criticisms can sometimes fly fast and furious.
Like his 2008’s Miss Singapore Universe Shenise Wong’s infamous Merlion-inspired national costume, which still get panned today.
Or that black crocheted silk-wool shawl with rosettes that he put on Florence Lian in 2004, then a Singapore Idol judge.
It screams fashion faux pas; and fashionistas screamed at him. The howls of judgement were awful, and it did affect him, he recalls.
But the shawl was also a hot fashion item at his by-appointment-only boutique at The Central in Clarke Quay.
He says: “The pieces just sold, nothing made it to the bargain bin. Goes to show, you just don’t know, and you have to have confidence in yourself.”
Confidence, he says, makes a woman beautiful.
Even actress Patricia Mok – who has been scorned for being ugly – isn’t bad-looking.
Yes, the first time she stepped into his shop, he was taken aback, he admits.
“I was like, “who is this ah Lian!’”
But he admires her ability to morph into different roles. “She’s really versatile.”
Fashion designing is not about envisioning pretty drawings or dabbling with beautiful fantasy ideas.
It’s hard work bringing pieces alive. One needs real skills. There is no way one can bluff his or her way around if he cannot put pieces of cloth together beautifully.
And at the centre of it, is the confident woman.
He says: “Your client is the person who will bring your designs, your clothes, to life. And that is why for me, it’s about what I put on a woman that will make her comfortable enough to carry it.”
Which explains why the keyword in his dictionary is trust?
“Only with trust (in him) will I be able to create that transformation, that I will not only flaunt their assets but also hide their faults.”
Ask him if can work any miracles with this correspondent who has not worn a dress since her last pregnancy 12 years ago and who is heavy – make that very heavy – Mr Ng declares: “I can make you so beautiful darling, that you may even have a third child.”
His challenge shall remain, unchallenged, for now.
He does not have an assistant and attends to each client personally, so the hours are critical.
Says Mr Ng: “We take the time to explain to you about body proportion, hair style, make-up, the right pair of shoes, accessories and the right handbag.
“It’s a head-to-toe transformation and seeing that take place in my joy.”
Mr Ng agrees that “not everyone is born to be a ‘dress hanger’ but if a designer can turn the non-hanger into one, he’d have succeeded.”
“The challenge in my job is to make everyone beautiful.”
His designs are created with his clientele base and their lifestyle in mind, which come in especially handy for last-minute requests.
“I have clients who call me at lunchtime telling me they need something for dinner, and they know they have something to pick up,” he says.
“There is definitely a piece her that will suit her perfectly.”
His industry is also definitely a catty one.
People bitch about the slightest things: Models, competitors, any and everything.
“But as you know, I am a rebel. I don’t mix with them.”
Final question? Is it true that most designers are gay?
Answer: “We’re just very happy people in this colourful industy.”
Secrets of the trade
1. Encourage women to try stuff on. But never insist or be pushy that they but something before they leave.
2. Be honest. Telling a fat woman that she is skinny will be a lie and she will know that you cannot be trusted. Teach them how to hide their flaws.
3. Make use of social media. Whether you are and old or new designer, it’s the best marketing tool when happy customers spread the word for you.
source : TNP