Designing uniforms is her passion

Designing uniforms is her passion

Vocational school graduate is a successful businesswoman & fashion designer.

During the 1960s and fresh out of secondary school, Ms Esther Tay dreamt of studying fashion design in London or Tokyo, but her parents could not afford it.

With her poor school results and left with "no choice", she decided to enrol in Baharuddin Vocational Institute, a now-defunct school for the advertising, fashion and printing trades.

While vocational school was not her dream place of study, Ms Tay had no regrets because it sparked her career as a successful fashion designer.

She graduated in 1971 and seven years later, a line from her label was placed in Tangs departmental store.

She was also the first local talent to export her designs to Japanese departmental store, Takashimaya, in 1992.

As the creative director of Esta, which designs and produces uniforms for companies, Ms Tay is heartened by recent announcements by the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (Aspire) committee to improve the career and educational pathways of poly and ITE graduates.

Indeed, she thinks that her vocational education has helped to provide a strong foundation for her business.

Looking back, Ms Tay, 60, admitted that she would not have imagined herself as a businesswoman and designer then.


Her housewife mother used to make all her dresses and Ms Tay was always interested in fashion so she chose the dressmaking course.

She opted for this course because she did not make the grade for her first choices of study: graphic design or advertising.

Ms Tay recalled: "I didn't do well in my studies and my parents knew that I was obviously not going to university, so they were supportive of me picking up a skill.

"Besides, they knew that it was something that I wanted to do."

She was often inspired in school by her teachers and friends in other courses and picked up the technical skills she needed.

Fresh out of school and bursting with ideas, Ms Tay started working at a haberdashery and textile shop in Tanglin Shopping Centre where the owner let her experiment with the fabrics and trims.

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