Multi-label fashion retail company SocietyA has always pride itself as a platform that shines the spotlight on Asian designers. Helmed by owner Pek Lay Peng, the boutique is located on the third level of Ngee Ann City, with distribution rights to over 30 Asian designer brands from Korea, New York, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia, just to name a few. Its online platform also ships curated garments, shoes, bags and accessories worldwide, putting the designers’ names on the map. And they’re continuing to do what’s best: curating beautiful ready-to-wear clothing with accessibility. Recently, SocietyA debuted new labels to their line-up, which are Malaysian designer labels Afiq M. and Syomirizwa Gupta, with a special showcase by Jonathan Liang, who’s stocked four seasons with them. Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore spoke to the talented designers Syomir Izwa and Jonathan, who were both in town for the showcase.
Fresh on SocietyA’s platform, Malaysian designer Syomir Izwa is drawn to strong stylish women in his life, and calls them his inspiration. He is also known for his unexpected combination of bold colours and simple silhouettes. Over the years, Syomir has also become enamoured with the rich colours, shapes and designs of the East, as well as the myriad of styles that has emerged through the confluence of cultures between East and West. He was drawn to SocietyA’s ethos and was convinced when the team approached him last year: “I had friends who were involved with SocietyA and from the feedback I got, they were good. At the same time I wanted to have a presence outside of Kuala Lumpur, so why not, Singapore? The location is amazing, and what they are offering to customers is exclusive and very well-curated. I think it is important for me as a designer to create brand awareness and for the staff to understand what’s the story of my collection, to convey the message which is celebrating life, culture, and so on. Plus the store is beside Valentino Red (laughs).”
Distribution is important for designers, and the right partners matter. While Syomir is eyeing the Singapore market, he also hopes to expand to Australia and Indonesia. “We are also represented by a company called Modestrove in London, so we do have a presence in UK. So in total, we have a small presence in Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and UK. I would love to expand to Australia and Indonesia; I identify with the colours in Australia and I am half-Indonesian by birth,” Syomir shared.
With so many “Instagram labels” flooding the market, we were curious to find out what he has to say about this. Is it really a healthy competition between fashion labels helmed by designers who tirelessly prove their mettle and entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of the ‘fast fashion’ stance? “I studied fashion when we had the 90s supermodel era, when Versace was Gianni Versace, and we had couture shows and so forth. The fickle part is when so many people are doing fashion, and some may have not studied fashion; making everything now that looks the same. If you see it that way, yes everyone can achieve something but at the same time, I wonder what about those who studied fashion, design, architecture, face artistry and all that? We’re not buying things or services from creatives who understand the basic fundamentals and the awareness of what’s going on in the industry,” Syomir lamented.
He continued: “We can’t deny that’s how the world is moving to, so designers have to work extra hard now. The challenge is to find a balance to the online businesses which is easy money as well as maintaining some kind of identity to what you do. But I do believe customers are not stupid; they are becoming more aware of what brand history it has and the younger generation are interested in the timeline and production steps. To me, I’m using fashion to tell my story, through colours and styles and I hope my brand is an option to people with big, strong, colourful personalities.”
Moving forward, Syomir will be releasing another line for people with big personalities who’s bold, womanly and curvaceous for Hari Raya.
Having stocked with SocietyA for four seasons now, Jonathan Liang is appreciative of the response he’s received from the Singapore market so far: “The response has been good in Singapore; they have been very kind to us. The brand is very focused in Europe and China markets so in Asia, Singapore is our main focus, so it’s nice to work with SocietyA on this matter, specifically. This allows us to be more personal with our Singapore clientele within Southeast Asia region.”
Jonathan, who’s returned from Paris, the base he called home for the last eight years, is now concentrating his business from Kuala Lumpur. He’s also fortunate to have his brand distributed by Lane Crawford, a partnership that began this year.
“We are planning to expand, but we are also looking for a proper brand positioning within the current market. Right now, we want to rise one more level up in the contemporary luxury sector, that’s why we shifted to an exclusivity with Lane Crawford and SocietyA. This is so we could position our pricing and our branding name stronger before we expand our venture. The Asia market is growing faster than Europe markets now,” he shared his understanding of the market trends.
So what can we expect from the designer in 2019?
“Personally, I’ve been roped in to 8 Conlay, a luxury project by the KSK Land, which is currently Malaysia’s most expensive property. Why they brought me here from Paris for, is to be the brand director. I’m in charge of the direction of all the properties, projects pertaining to image and it’s been really interesting. It’s quite similar to fashion as the building has lifestyle retail quarters and it’s about curating images. I really want to expand on this sector, personally moving into 2019, while simultaneously running Jonathan Liang, the brand as well,” the designer is hopeful.