For the recent screening of her new film, Clouds Of Sils Maria, actress and Chanel brand ambassador Kristen Stewart turned up in a lace jumpsuit that was not from the French luxury brand.
The jumpsuit was from the London-based label Self-Portrait, an up-and-coming brand brimming with cool and commercial appeal.
Despite its fledgling status, the label, founded in September 2013 by Malaysian designer Han Chong, already boasts a celebrity wall of fame.
Celebrities, models and fashion It girls, such as Reese Witherspoon, Katy Perry, Miranda Kerr, Chanel Iman, Aimee Song, Chiara Ferragni, are among those who have been spotted in a Self-Portrait creation.
As intricate as its designs are, Self-Portrait is also surprisingly affordable.
In Singapore, the brand is stocked at multi-label boutique Et-i-kit (34 Kandahar Street) and dresses range in prices from $300 to $650.
One particular item from the spring/summer 2015 collection, the 3D Shell Tee ($300, above, extreme left), which was cut out of a 3D applique flower fabric, oozes with ethereal charm. Another standout piece, the Liliana dress (£320 or S$660), features mesh panels with luxurious lace details.
A graduate of the undergraduate womenswear programme at Central Saint Martins in London, Chong also co-founded the successful fashion brand Three Floor. He left the brand to start Self-Portrait.
“I knew from a young age that I was always creative, but I didn’t know that I wanted to be a designer,” said Chong, who declined to reveal his age and marital status.
The Penang native studied art and fashion in his hometown before moving to London 13 years ago.
At Et-i-kit, the brand is among one of the bestsellers.
“We have customers flying in from Malaysia and Indonesia for the sole purpose of getting their hands on one of his pieces,” said Ms June Huang, who runs the year-old boutique.
She added that the current collection has been the most popular and a third re-stock will be arriving next month.
Among the tastemakers showcasing Chong’s designs on Instagram is entrepreneur and local fashion It girl Velda Tan, 27.
Ms Tan, who recently launched a new fashion brand called Collate The Label, has at least five dresses from Self-Portrait.
“I like how he combines artsy and quirky elements into his designs, yet manages to keep the feminine aesthetic,” said Ms Tan.
6 QUESTIONS WITH DESIGNER HAN CHONG
1. What were some of your earliest fashion memories?
I grew up in Penang far away from the world of fashion. As a child, fashion was something very magical in my mind.
My first college tutor in Penang, Jing Ooi, who graduated from Central Saint Martins, totally opened up my eyes to fashion design. He also inspired me to move to London to continue my studies.
2. How would you describe the Self-Portrait aesthetic?
Most of our designs are rather detailed – there are overlapping textures and a combination of different materials. I tend to make multiple references to various time periods and styles.
Although many of the designs are rather feminine, in each collection you will also find androgynous-looking pieces.
Hopefully, our creations encourage the women who wear them to stand out rather than just blend in.
3. What is your design process like?
I travel a lot and I go all around the world looking for new fabrics and inspirations in order to keep my designs current.
When I am designing, I always think about the sculptural qualities, and about what women want and need their wardrobes to be.
4. One of the striking things about Self-Portrait is how affordable your pieces are. How do you manage to keep prices low?
One of the most important things for me when I set out to launch Self-Portrait was to offer an attainable range without compromising on quality.
It takes a lot of research and trips around the world to find the right materials and techniques for the right prices, but there is always a solution to achieve affordable prices without compromising on quality.
Of course, it is also possible if you are not greedy.
5. What has been the most memorable moment in your career?
Leaving Three Floor was heartbreaking, but it was also the best decision I have ever made.
At Three Floor, I had three other partners, which naturally meant that I often had to negotiate and compromise on my ideas.
Self-Portrait is the label that I created after leaving Three Floor.
I wanted a company where I could design exactly on my own terms and produce in a way that is close to perfection. I have to admit that I am a bit of a control freak.
6. Would you ever head back to Malaysia?
It is where my roots are and all my family members are there. But at this moment, because of work, London has now become my home.
However, I always try and go back as often as possible because it keeps me grounded.
This story was first published on The Straits Times Urban on 17 April 2015.