You are running an amazing business that you've built from the ground up. What have you learned by running your business that you didn't learn in school?
Although school was an important experience for me, it did not really teach me anything about the real industry. I have learned to run a company by making a lot of mistakes and learning from them. Every time something challenging occurs I try to look for the positive in it. My partner and I constantly reflect on the day's work and try to come up with different alternatives of overcoming challenges.
From my experience, most private fashion schools (with the exception of few) do not really care for creating business owners. The current economy has created a culture of fear, which makes schools hardly embrace originality, risk and development, all of which are necessary tools as far as entrepreneurship goes.
Being an independent designer, I had to quickly adapt business knowledge in order to make it work and last. It was tough for me in the beginning because I have always been a shy person but I knew I had to put myself out there and learn in order to get results.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a fashion label or brand?
Do a lot of research, develop taste, know your market, follow your instincts, and most importantly be very mindful of your overall aesthetic. Aside from that, be kind. Fashion is not an easy road, and a gesture of kindness goes a long way. Try to be helpful when you can. Surround yourself with positive people and do not feel discouraged by other talented people. Encourage and support each other to the top; there is always room for greatness.
How do you deal with knockoffs?
We have developed different strategies for each scenario. One of the main issues is that the majority of people do not see the amount of work that goes into developing something unique. Fast fashion retailers have blurred what happens behind the scenes, which hinders the respect and value we have for clothes. We are all guilty of this; we were born into this mess, but i can see the tides turning. I try my best to spread awareness of the issue in hopes of sharing knowledge of the unethical and ethical practices in the fashion industry. I am very, very, very grateful to all of my loyal supporters and every time i see a knockoff, I turn to them for support. They help me stay positive and keep moving forward.
Are there any women in your life that inspire you?With time I have learned to see the power and strength in all women. It isn't hard to seek beauty out because we are all so diverse. What inspires me is seeing women accomplish their world.
Who were some of your female role models when you were growing up?Not too long ago, my mom told me her story of how it was for her growing up. Up until then, I didn't realize she had been my role model the whole time.
My mom and dad were the youngest in their big family. We come from a poor and modest background. When they got married, they had to seek financial help from their siblings and everyone thought that they married too young and that they would never make it without their families' help. What they didn't know was that my mom was intelligent: instead of being a housewife, she decided to work hard so she would no longer need to depend on her family for a living. I remember in my early years, waking up early in the morning to collect cans from trash with my grandma while my mom was away working. That was our life for a while and it was normal to me; I didn't know that we were poor. Fast forward to a few years later, we were living better. My mom used the knowledge she learned from working under others and started her own business from the ground up. I remember that very moment when I knew things were different: my mom cut her hair off and started wearing business attire. She looked like a real boss!
I watched my mother transform from a shy woman to the strongest in our family. She gracefully overcame every obstacle in her way. She proved everyone wrong, but stayed humble. She is very kind and giving, and I believe she is the glue in the family that keeps everyone together. Her entrepreneur spirit motivates me to always do my best. With her support, she inspired me be independent as well.
If you weren't in the fashion industry, what other profession could you see yourself in?
A Sex Ed teacher. From a young age, I have always had a keen interest in learning about anything sex-related. I feel it is important to educate every generation to make safer choices. I used to collect all the pamphlets from health clinics and later teach and quiz my younger brother. He still reminds me of this. For me, sex has always been a normal and comfortable subject to talk about. If I ever do decide to pause in fashion, it would be because I took a job in teaching sex and health.
If you could say anything to yourself 5 or 10 years ago, what would you say?
Do not worry. It all works out. Cry and laugh, you won't regret it. Listen to your family, they were right.
What article of clothing or way of presenting makes you feel powerful?
What makes me feel powerful is a bit more than the clothes or presentation: the power for me lies in owning my choices.
I like to present myself at what I consider my very best. Superficially, I do love a good pair of heels and a novelty bra!
What is your favorite Chromat piece?
It is very hard for me to pick a specific piece. I would have to say the Underwire Bralette. It was one of my first purchases and has been a part of my wardrobe ever since.
I like anything that enhances the look of the bust with fun lines and curves. Overall, I adore all the original pieces and I look forward to all the new technology, innovation and concepts that are constantly being pushed by the brand.
What was your experience like on location with photographer Vivian Loh?
Always the best. Vivian is a close friend of mine. I met Vivian when she reached out to me for a feature in her magazine project with Jessia for Pearl Magazine. It was an instant bond! I am very sensitive to people's energy and I felt instantly that Vivian was good company! We remained close ever since. It is always a pleasure to work with her because we understand each other and have a similar eye for detail, so it was really exciting to have her shoot me again, this time for Chromat. I look forward to more collaborative projects with her.
What is your favorite Creepy Yeha piece?
You mentioned in your interview with The Snobette that your first lingerie inspiration came from seeing Madonna's Blonde Ambition Tour when you were young. What musicians or artists would you like to work with in the future?
What surprised you the most about working with Twigs?
Wearing lingerie as outerwear takes a certain level of confidence. Where did you first find that confidence?
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?Overcoming depression, gaining self-love, learning to be more aware and most importantly, learning to say no.
What projects are you interested in exploring in the future?
I am in the process of a secret collaborative project with a close friend of mine, so I am eager to see the turnout of that.
I also look forward to expanding my work by hiring more help. Right now, it is just me and my partner. We control every aspect of our business: design, hand-making all orders, emails, styling pulls, shipping orders, etc. There is a lot that goes into running a small business and I want to start seeking help by meeting people who I can trust.
I just want to keep working with talented people!
See more of CreepyYeha's work here.
See more of Vivian Loh's photos here.
Chromat's Conversation series highlights the voices of women who are shaping the world with their creativity and ingenuity.