Image: The Straits Times
Fashion designer Daniel Ngoo was never fond of creating feminine styles. But as the creative director of Singapore-based fashion label Whole9Yards, his creations ooze femininity.
Dresses are nipped in at the waist, floral prints are overlapped with floral lace and there are tops with floral appliques.
“I’ve always preferred designing androgynous styles and I find the feminine aesthetic more of a challenge,” says the edgy-looking Mr Ngoo.
“There’s a fine balance that needs to be drawn. I want my designs to look ladylike and not girly.”
The 27-year-old from Sitiawan, Perak has impressive credentials for a young designer.
In 2010, he was crowned the winner of Star Creation, a regional fashion design competition.
The win earned him a one-year internship with home-grown fashion brand Raoul in Singapore, where he dabbled in womenswear, menswear and accessories.
His past employers include top Malaysian designer Lee Khoon Hooi.
Dressed simply in a navy blue T-shirt and black sweatpants, Mr Ngoo says it was his mother who nurtured his passion for design by sending him to art classes as a child.
“She loved dressing me up; she would also design clothes and get them tailored for me. I distinctly remember there being a pair of bell bottomed jeans,” says Mr Ngoo, who studied fashion design at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Selangor.
Whole9Yards, which was launched in September 2013 by China-born Widelia Liu, also 27, seems to be doing well.
Formerly based in London, the rather private Ms Liu, who studied in Singapore for seven years from the age of 11, chose to start her label in Singapore for its favourable business opportunities, such as being located close to manufacturing plants in China.
She met Mr Ngoo through a mutual friend and hired him in November 2013. Before that, the brand was designed by a team.
It opened two stand-alone stores along the Orchard Road shopping belt (01-05 Wisma Atria and 02-06 Orchard Gateway), within a week of each other, in June last year.
The brand is also available at Level 3 Takashimaya Department Store, Keepers Singapore Designer Collective pop-up store and online at www.whole9yards.com. Prices range from $89 to $389.
“We want to make sure that we are affordable for women who are earning their own salaries, but aren’t super rich,” says Mr Ngoo, who is single.
As such, it also offers a unique service that allows online shoppers to order items to try at home and pay for only those that they choose to keep.
This year, Whole9Yards is planning on taking its international expansion a step further. Which is why it is bent on calling itself an international label despite its Singapore roots. Whole9Yards is also sold at multi-label stores in Taiwan, Japan and New York City.
It took part in the recent Tranoi trade show held in Paris and hired the notable international public relations firm, Totem Fashion.
“We are proud to be in Singapore, but we don’t want people to give us any special attention or develop any preconceived ideas just because we are from Singapore. We want the brand to speak for itself,” Mr Ngoo says.
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.