Hailed as one of Singapore's Insta It girls (with 334.8k followers at last count), socialite cum-fashion/media entrepreneur Arissa Cheo has upped her fashion influence by debuting a ready-to-wear line called Arissa X Collection No. 1. She tells Her World's TRACY LEE more.
Her World (HW): Why did you start the Arissa X clothing line?
Arissa Cheo (AC): As a consumer, I realised that most of the designs I gravitate towards - which include all the details I like - are usually overpriced, while more affordable versions lack those same details. So I decided to create my own clothing line that encompasses all those elements I would like to see, in pieces I would wear, at a much more reasonable price point. Thanks to social media, I have a good-enough following of girls who constantly ask me where I get my clothes, shoes and accessories from. I thought: Why not create a line based on what I would love to wear to cater to that market, within a price range of $49 to $350?
HW: What went into its creation?
AC: It's definitely been a learning experience, requiring a lot of thought, research, trial and error, as well as rummaging through my own wardrobe to figure out what works and what doesn't. I worked with a stylist and pattern-maker, who helped me refine and bring my ideas to life. I also collaborated with artist Jahan Loh to create custom pieces for the runway collection.
I spent endless hours on the phone with people on my team as well as manufacturers - the samples and designs were made and finalised in Singapore before we sent them to a factory in China for production. I argued a lot with my creative consultant Gregory, who styles the collection, ha ha.
But I think it's important to not surround yourself with "yes-men" all the time, and I love it when my team gives me constructive criticism. Steel is forged by fire, after all. It’s been a tedious and tiring process, but very rewarding too. It took roughly three months from conception to production, and the starting capital, about a five-figure sum, was self-funded.
HW: Key inspirations behind your first collection, Arissa X Collection No. 1?
AC: It's very much inspired by rock 'n' roll, a little '70s glam rock, combined with the irreverence of '90s supermodels, art and poetry. I also drew upon the references that influenced my personal style, such as the time I spent studying in Los Angeles, my travels around the world, my obsession with all things related to "girl culture", pop icons like the late R&B artist Aaliyah, Jane Birkin, and Vanessa Paradis.
HW: Tell us more about its debut at the recent Singapore Fashion Week 2016 (in October).
AC: As it’s my first collection, I really wanted to cover all the bases and give my customers a complete wardrobe. We have everything from basics like oversized T-shirts, casual wear like a shirt dress with a tie-around-waist detail, and fun pieces like sequinned flared pants and oversized biker vests, to a bit of semi-formal evening wear like a jumpsuit, all of which rework my penchant for mixing glamour with tropes of rock ’n’ roll and grunge.
There are about 40 pieces in total, including shoes and accessories for the runway collection.
There'll also be selected personalised pieces with images and personal poetry, available as custom orders.
HW: In fashion-speak, it is…
AC: Tough yet effortless, while still exciting and eyecatching. Think structure but with slouchiness in all the right places, pants with details that create flair with movement, and outfit-making separates. Splattered denim, metallics, white, black and grey staples, a little khaki green, and a lot of glitter and sequins. It's for anyone who likes to have fun and take a little risk with their wardrobe.Photo: Her World
HW: Any personal favourites?
AC: Everything! But if I really had to pick, the pieces with the tie-around-waist shirt detail because I usually like to tie a shirt around my waist to add some edginess to my outfit.
I'd also pick the metallic vegan leather and sequinned pieces, because I love anything that's shiny and stands out.
HW: You've got quite a few famous friends such as actress Fiona Xie and social-media darling Yoyo Cao. Are you roping them in to help?
AC: I think my friends are my secret weapons when it comes to marketing the line. They're my muses too, and the things they wear and post help sell the brand. We also have our own dedicated Instagram page (@arissa___x), which we've worked hard to make look unique.
HW: So what did you learn about the business of fashion from this experience?
AC: The "business of fashion" is where dream and reality meet. The whole fashion side of it is creative and fun and where the dream is conceived, while the reality of it is that it's still a business so it has to be run properly. For example, I may want a piece of clothing to look a certain way, but lots of other factors have to come into consideration - such as whether the cost of it would make it feasible to sell after production.
HW: What are your ambitions for your clothing line?
AC: I'm very happy with the progress we've made since we've launched and I just want to take it one step at a time, letting the business grow organically. For now, the pieces will be available online at our webstore, but plans are under way for the brand to be carried at retail stores as well as on other websites.
HW: Who are your fashionista role models?
AC: There have been many over the years and they change constantly, but the main ones are Kate Moss, fashion editor/consultant Barbara Martelo, J-pop star Namie Amuro in the '90s, and Aaliyah.Photo: Her World
HW: Describe your style…
AC: I usually wear basics like T-shirts, a slip dress and jeans. I'll then layer on more things to add another dimension to the outfi t, such as by draping a leather jacket over my shoulders, or tying a plaid shirt around my waist. The final step is always piling on the accessories.
For evening or formal wear, I opt for a jumpsuit or pants that make a statement. With my collection, it goes the same way, but we take it a step further. There are pieces like the oversized T-shirts I love, the vests with exaggerated shoulders, and the glittery slip dresses.
HW: How has your style evolved over the years, and where's it heading?
AC: It depends on which country I'm based in, what goes on around me, or what the current trend is, but I tend to gravitate towards the same things. As I grow older, I've toned down the way I dress… maybe I've become lazier, so I don't put as much eff ort into dressing up as I used to.
HW: Any pearls of fashion wisdom to share?
AC: The secret to real style is: There are no rules. As with music and art, taste in fashion is subjective. Just. Have. Fun. With. It. Own it when you wear it. Pick the first thing that comes to mind, that you want to wear, the one that stands out most. For example, a new platform heel, or a big statement accessory - then slowly build your outfit around it.
HW: Your Instagram posts are always fashionable and cool - how does a typical day for you go?
AC: All my days are consumed with work at the moment. I wake up around 9am, answer messages, calls and e-mails while I have my juice and breakfast, head to my office where I stay until 7pm or 8pm, go home, take a shower, answer more calls and e-mails, jump into bed and recharge for the next day. Sometimes if I'm lucky or not feeling too tired, I grab dinner or a quick drink with friends.
This article first appeared in the December 2016 issue of Her World. Her World, Singapore's #1 women's magazine, is now available in both print and digital formats.
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