By Hannah Teoh
Fashion designer Teddy Or's love affair with clothes started when he was a little boy, thanks to his sister's paper dolls.
Teddy, who was bestowed the honour of being one of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA)'s best graduates last month, recalls fondly how he would design and make outfits for these dolls . In addition, he was adept at using the sewing machine – a skill he learnt from his mother.
Despite his flair and passion for fashion, Teddy, currently in his mid-thirties, did not step into the design scene immediately after obtaining his O levels.
Instead, he went on to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree at the National University of Singapore (NUS) before working in various jobs - these included being a flight attendant, a book editor, and a corporate communications officer.
It was only after leaving his contract job as an executive with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in 2007 that he dedicated himself fully to pursuing a Diploma in Fashion Design.
A forgotten dream?
"Working in different jobs helped make me more confident," he said, adding that valuable people skills were developed through his time with the various jobs.
While he was working outside the fashion circles, he put his design skills to use by making bags and pants and printing T-shirts for friends.
Through personal contacts, he also did short stints at Channel U's wardrobe department and worked backstage at fashion shows to better understand the world of fashion design.
"I wanted to be sure that this was something I'd enjoy doing," said the soft-spoken designer, assuring, with an air of quiet confidence, that the dream had never gone away.
Counting his blessings
Teddy considers himself fortunate to have met many people, including seasoned professionals at NAFA, who encouraged him to pursue his passion.
However, he also shared that in addition to having a passion for innovative designs, a lot of patience is needed to sustain that fire.
"When you look at a runway show, it could last 15 minutes, but behind that 15 minutes is at least half a year of hard work.
"You have to be patient enough to know that you have to be best at that half year of hard work."
One of his big breaks came in 2006 when he emerged winner in the Singapore Fashion Designers contest, a competition seen as a platform for highlighting up-and-coming designers.
This year, at the Singapore Fashion Festival, he launched his eponymous fashion line, Teddy Or.
When asked why he started his own label, he told AsiaOne: "I suppose you may call it egotistical. Just kidding! Actually, I hope to share my vision and ideas with others and fashion is the best way I know how to do that."
Some of the unusual features in his clothes are reversible designs that can be worn inside out, and blouses and skirts that have zips that give the outfit a different appearance when zipped or unzipped.
"I just hope that whatever I do, people will find something that they like. I'm not looking at revolutionalising the industry but I'd prefer to let my clothes do the talking," he said, adding that one of his aspirations is to eventually see his collection on the New York runways.