Image: The Straits Times
The founder of luxury bag brand Ling Wu, Ms Goh Ling Ling, started collecting vintage bags as a 14-year-old, and owns some from the likes of Gucci and Louis Vuitton.
Her first one was a Christian Dior Boston bag from the 1980s, a gift from her mother.
Now 41, she says: “I like old things. They have a mysterious quality about them and always leave me wondering about their past life, and who owned them. There’s also something beautiful about imperfection – the word ‘perfect’ actually scares me.”
Nevertheless, each piece of leather and sustainably-sourced animal skin used in making Ling Wu’s bags are painstakingly rolled with glass bottles by artisans in Indonesia and Thailand. That treatment produces a luxuriously soft feel and slight glossiness which are signature traits of the bags.
“We’ve been working with these talented artisans for five years now. You don’t need to have your bags made in Italy which conjures up images of veteran artisans hunched over their craft. In reality, the bags are made by Chinese workers in factories,” she says.
Set up in 1999, Ling Wu’s products are now stocked in Japan and Europe. The home-grown label’s bags have also been seen on celebrities such as Korean actress Song Ji Hyo.
Prices begin at $150 for phone covers made of python and lizard skins, to $890 for a python and lambskin bag and $4,200 for a bag made of New Guinea crocodile skin.
Recently, Ms Goh showcased Ling Wu’s fall/winter 2015 collection at Fashion Trade Show Edit, at the Javits Center in New York, and the Premiere Classe trade show in Paris.
The brand, which had its humble beginnings in her home, has indeed made good.
She said: “My son was little then, so it made sense to work from home so I could take care of him.”
Her son is now four, and she also has two daughters aged seven and 11. She is married to a 44-year-old advertising creative director.
The busy mother says: “I’m blessed to have a husband who is very hands-on with the kids.
“I also try to stick to my nine-to-six working hours, as work can definitely be completed the next day.”
She attributes her interest in fashion to her parents, who owned a business which manufactured sportswear and undergarments in the 1970s.
“There were always sewing machines at home. I’m also grateful that my parents gave me room to explore what I wanted in life,” she said.
In fact, at age 18, she packed her bags and headed to study at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London on her own.
And it has paid off – the grunginess of street fashion there influences her slouchy bag designs to this day, she says.
However, she takes it slow at times: “While building up Ling Wu, I learnt that growing slowly is good for the business. You need to have enough financial backing to move on.”
See what’s in her bag here:
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on March 27, 2015. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.