Making their mark

Goh Ling Ling, 40

Her label Ling Wu is known amongst fashionistas for practical yet edgy python skin bags, yet she arrives at our shoot carrying a croco bag.

She reveals that the luxe material will feature in her next collection. Another highlight: the Svelte Python range, which features python skin coated with rubber (so the bags are sturdier, yet retain a soft, luxurious texture).

Even better news: each of Ling's new bags will come with an iPad slot, a mini LED torch (so you do not have to rummage in the dark) and a little mirror (for quick touch-ups).

From these thoughtful touches, it is evident that being a working mother of three, juggling the roles of designer and entrepreneur, and part-time lecturer at Lasalle College of the Arts, has influenced her work.

Although her family is in the garment manufacturing business, she did not take the same path, deciding to pursue a career in graphic design instead.

"I grew up running around sewing machines because my father had set up a factory at home. The whole family had to sleep on the balcony for a few years," she says.

But a love for creating drew her into fashion. For four years, she designed lingerie under her label Fling.

But when she spotted a gap in the accessories market, she turned her focus to python skin bags in 2011.

"Either you pay $300 for a cheap python skin bag, or fork out $3,000 for one from a designer label. There was no alternative," she points out.

The most expensive piece from her latest collection is a hobo bag priced at a relatively affordable $1,200.

Here is a valuable tip from her on how to keep your snakeskin bag in tip-top shape: "Keeping your bag in storage for too long dries up the skin. Also, mould will grow. The more you use it, the more beautiful the skin becomes as the natural oils from your hands condition it."

Though she has built an international clientele - she shows her wares to international buyers at the Premiere Classe trade show in Paris - she wants to remain a champion of Asian talent and materials.

"Our python skin and craftsmen come from different parts of Asia, such as Indonesia, because I am very proud of our natural resources. I hope my label's success will tell the world that Asia has high-quality materials and talented people."

Elyn Wong, 37

Her seven-year-old label Stolen might specialise in backless tops and dresses, but she surprises us with the variety in her latest offerings. From the compact luggage trolley that she has brought for the photo shoot, she pulls out minimalist A-line shifts, a cowl-neck cropped top, and blazers - all backless, of course.

"I think that the back is the most sensual part of the body," she tells us. And her customers love how Stolen's pieces are a little sexy but still easy to wear.

"My pieces aren't overtly sexy - but they let you stand out at a party," she adds.

When she started Stolen in 2007, it was her little pet project - an outlet to let off steam from her demanding advertising job.

She juggled designing for Stolen and her position as a creative group head at an advertising firm for five years until she quit her job two years ago to concentrate on the label.

All her hard work paid off when famed New York multi-label store Oak (which carries edgy labels like Rock Owens) picked up eight of Stolen's pieces earlier this year - two of those designs sold out within two weeks.

The brand is also stocked overseas at Hong Kong's Kapok and Modeinasia in Shanghai. Here, you will find Stolen at Robinsons Orchard.

She says of her customers: "What surprises me most is the number of men who have bought my dresses for their girlfriends or wives."

What's next: a web-store (www.stolenstolen.com) and an accessories line that the self-confessed installation-art fan has created in collaboration with sculptor Melvin Ong (the pair previously teamed up on her campaign images two years ago).

And as we wrap up our photo shoot, she tells us that she would not trade her job as a designer for anything.

"Even when I was in advertising - doing a job that I loved - I had the Monday blues. Now, I never feel the Monday blues - that's why I do what I do."

Chelsea Scott-Blackhall, 32

It is apt that she is photographed here wearing a Dzojchen neoprene baseball jacket - it illustrates her point that there is an ongoing misconception that her label is all about leather and denim.

"Even the stores that stock the label emphasise the use of these materials because there was a year when they were used extensively. But that's not the only thing we do," she says.

In fact, she has proven her knack for giving classic pieces a twist with different treatments.

"I've reworked the biker jacket in linen and the classic denim jacket in blue leather with rivets and top-stitching," she says. Her next big idea: embedding leather into denim.

Our interview also reveals that the good-looker is more than just another model-turned-designer. Before the Singapore resident ventured into modelling in New York, she worked in marketing and branding at advertising agency JWT.

"My father was in advertising. Since I was young, he would ask me how I would brand something. It became a game to me," she says.

She started her own fashion business in 2009 - it was an avenue for her to apply her interests in marketing and photography, she says.

The only experience she lacked? Fashion design training.

It turns out that her handicap worked to her benefit - her success has been partly due to her experiments with unusual drafting methods. For example, she turned out slimming jeans by straightening the outer seams - instead of curving them - so that the thighs of the wearer appear more streamlined.

"I have to work backwards because there is no one to guide me in constructing my clothes," she says candidly.

But she takes all hurdles in her stride.

"I encounter challenges every day, but they are not setbacks. I see them as tests in the course of building a brand."

This attitude has served her well. Today, five years after she started her label, she has built a healthy international following - Dzojchen is stocked overseas in multi-label boutiques such as Valleydez in Dubai, Veer NYC in New York and Gilt in Japan.

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