Socialite Arissa Cheo reveals why she started her own fashion line

Arissa Cheo
PHOTO: Her World

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.

Singapore Fashion Week 2016 highlights

  • Singapore Fashion Week ended with a flourish, as local luxury shoe brand Mashizan and London-based contemporary label Self-Portrait closed the glitzy event on two runways at the National Gallery Singapore.
  • Singaporean shoe designer Mashizan Masjum presented a collection featuring glittery metallic colours and geometric heels.
  • The label,has been seen on singer La Toya Jackson and other celebrities.
  • Self-Portrait, launched by Malaysia-born designer Han Chong, closed the event on its main stage with an upbeat 15-minute show.
  • The collection featured his distinctive use of lace contrasted with edgier, masculine silhouettes.
  • Feminine ruffles were paired with military skirts, while lace dresses were made sexy with asymmetrical off-the-shoulder styles.
  • Embrace chokers, crop tops, and high-heeled combat boots as Arissa Cheo shows you how to slay the 90s trend with a larger-than-life attitude, a bit of skin and lots of bling.
  • The Arissa X girl that she is designing for is "not perfect, not premeditated" and definitely too cool to care. You have to be game enough to wear it.
  • For his debut runway show in Asia, New York-based red carpet designer Naeem Khan sent out almost his complete Spring Summer 2017 collection of gorgeous, colourful, embellished, glamorous bling-tastic pieces.
  • From the opening looks that were flowing, graphically coloured and relatively unadorned, to the closing series of three - yes, three - amazingly embellished wedding gowns via ballgowns
  • Naeem Khan has been worn by celebrities from Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Penélope Cruz, Jennifer Lopez and Emily Blunt, to Queen Noor of Jordan and the Duchess of Cambridge!
  • If you want something beautiful, joyous and fabulous to wear, this is the designer for you.
  • Modern, architectural, minimalist, Stolen S/S 2017 has stayed true to its signatures, yet still amazed audiences with unexpected cuts and sophisticated origami folds.
  • Leading global jewellery brand and Official Fashion Accessories Partner of Singapore Fashion Week (SGFW), Swarovski, hosted the Swarovski Opening Showcase Party at Smoke & Mirrors in National Gallery Singapore last night.
  • In attendance were local celebrities such as Jeffrey Xu, Hor Ying Ying, Zhang Zhen Huan and Romeo Tan.
  • Also spotted amongst the star-studded crowd were MediaCorp deejays Yasminne Cheng and Jean Danker.
  • In line with Swarovski’s plan to establish Singapore as the hub of fashion in the region, the partnership with SGFW brought influencers, media and guests from around the region to celebrate fashion in a glamorous opening showcase party. This is the first of its kind on such scale, seeing Southeast Asian markets from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, coming together with a common vested interest in celebration of the brand and its initiatives.
  • Superstar Thai actress and singer, Namcha Sheranut Yusananda - or @namcha_tea - already has more than 628,000 followers on Instagram! With the launch of her new fashion brand Sheranut, she's sure to have even more.
  • Aymeric Lacroix, Managing Director of Swarovski’s Consumer Good Business (CGB) Southeast Asia said, "We are grateful for the support and enthusiasm Swarovski has received in Singapore and around the region. We hope to be able to showcase more sparkling facets of Swarovski to everyone through exciting partnerships and events."
  • Launched in 2014, the brand debuted basically on Instagram but quickly turned into a complete label with its own stores in Thailand.
  • The Autumn Winter 2016 collection that showed on the runway for Day 2 at Singapore Fashion Week was definitely 'wild' going by the sounds of the African savannah, the face paint on the models and the animal prints all over the runway.
  • However in courtesy to the passing of the Thai monarch recently, there was a minute of silence before the start of the show.
  • While some people might have questioned the idea of putting white models in African-inspired masks and 'face jewellery', apparently the collection was based on the photography of Michel Comte who is known for mixing fashion and wildlife, and which inspired the designer to "protect each other as well as reminding people to stop animal abuse all over the world … and also reminded [them] of the African tribal people who have lived this way for many millenniums". So that's the reason behind the homage to Africa.
  • The pieces of the collection themselves, without the trappings of the styling, ranged from sexy to outrageously sexy with a fair bit of skin in between that was greatly appreciated by the audience - from those who wanted to wear it, to those who wanted to see other people wearing it.
  • Guo Pei is the Beijing-based couturier who created the much memed yellow gown worn by Rihanna.
  • The 49-year-old designer's evening show opened the five-day Singapore Fashion Week 2016's main stage inside the National Gallery Singapore - one of two stages at the annual event.
  • If anyone was expecting super traditional Chinese outfits from Guo Pei, it was anything but.
  • She made tassels, embroidered trains and brocade look incredibly wearable - modern day luxury and glamour that was restrained and tasteful.
  • Home-grown womenswear designer Max Tan - known for his avant garde designs and exaggerated silhouettes - raised the curtain on the stage at the Auditorium Foyer, marking his SGFW debut.
  • The label Max.Tan was launched in 2010.
  • In the years since then, he has racked up praise for his avant- garde pieces.
  • Tan says: "My clothes are for the sophisticated rebel who appreciates design and wants to be different."
  • The bold and the beautiful of Singapore’s fashion scene gathered for a photo shoot at the National Gallery. They included former models, style icons and fashion bigwigs, chosen to represent over five decades of Singapore’s colourful fashion industry.

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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